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Abraham Lincoln. 

Front a p/iotogrf.^h by Alexander Hesler, Chicago, 1S5S. 


Z\)z Zxwz storp of a (Brcat life ^^"^ 






VOL. I i 

NEW YORK :iLijyL. '. - 


Copyright, 1888, 

Copyright, 1892, 

Printed at the 
Appleton Press, U. S. A. 









A QUARTER of a century has well-nigh rolled by 
since the tragic death of Abraham Lincoln. The 
prejudice and bitterness with which he was assailed 
have disappeared from the minds of men, and the 
world is now beginning to view him as a great his- 
torical character. Those who knew and walked with 
him are gradually passing away, and ere long the 
last man who ever heard his voice or grasped his 
hand will have gone from earth. With a view to 
throwing a light on some attributes of Lincoln's 
character heretofore obscure, and thus contributing 
to the great fund of history which goes down to 
posterity, these volumes are given to the world. 

If Mr. Lincoln is destined to fill that exalted 
station in history or attain that high rank in the 
estimation of the coming generations which has 
been predicted of him, it is alike just to his mem- 
ory and the proper legacy of mankind that the 
whole truth concerning him should be known. If 
the story of his life is truthfully and courageously 
told — nothing colored or suppressed ; nothing false 
either written or suggested — the reader will see and 
feel the presence of the living man. He will, in 
fact, live with him and be moved to think and act 


with him. If, on the other hand, the story is col- 
ored or the facts in any degree suppressed, the 
reader will be not only misled, but imposed upon as 
well. At last the truth will come, and no man need 
hope to evade it. 

" There is but one true history in the world," 
said one of Lincoln's closest friends to whom I con- 
fided the project of writing a history of his life 
several years ago, ''and that is the Bible. It is 
often said of the old characters portrayed there 
that they were bad men. They are contrasted 
with other characters in history, and much to the 
detriment of the old worthies. The reason is, that 
the Biblical historian told the whole truth— the 
inner life. The heart and secret acts are brought 
to light and faithfully photographed. In other his- 
tories virtues are perpetuated and vices concealed. 
If the life of King David had been written by an 
ordinary historian the affair of Uriah would at most 
have been a quashed indictment with a denial of 
all the substantial facts. You should not forget 
there is a skeleton in every house. The finest 
character dug out thoroughly, photographed hon- 
estly, and judged by that standard of morality or 
excellence which we exact for other men is never 
perfect. Some men are cold, some lewd, some dis- 
honest, some cruel, and many a combination of all. 
The trail of the serpent is over them all ! Excel- 
lence consists, not in the absence of these attri- 
butes, but in the degree in which t^ - /e redeemed 
by the virtues and graces of lift Xicoln's char- 
acter will, I am certain, bear close scrutiny. I am 


not afraid of you in this direction. Don't let any- 
thing deter you from digging to the bottom ; yet 
don't forget that if Lincohi had some faults, Wash- 
ington had more — few men have less. In drawing 
the portrait tell the world what the skeleton was 
with Lincoln. What gave him that peculiar mel- 
ancholy ? What cancer had he inside ? " 

Some persons will doubtless object to the narra- 
tion of certain facts which appear here for the first 
time, and which they contend should have been 
consigned to the tomb. Their pretense is that no 
good can come from such ghastly exposures. To 
such over-sensitive souls, if any such exist, my 
answer is that these facts are indispensable to a full 
knowledge of Mr. Lincoln in all the walks of life. 
In order properly to comprehend him and the stir- 
ring, bloody times in which he lived, and in which 
he played such an important part, we must have all 
the facts— we must be prepared to take him as he 

In determining Lincoln's title to greatness we 
must not only keep in mind the times in which 
he lived, but we must, to a certain extent, meas- 
ure him with other men. Many of our great men 
and our statesmen, it is true, have been self-made, 
rising gradually through struggles to the topmost 
round of the ladder ; but Lincoln rose from a lower 
depth than any of them. His origin was in that 
unknown and sunless bog in which history never 
made a foot-print. I should be remiss in my duty 
if I did not throw the light on this part of the 
picture, so that the world may realize what mar- 

viii PREFACE. 

vellous contrast one phase of his Hfe presents to 

The purpose of these volumes is to narrate facts, 
avoiding as much as possible any expression of 
opinion, and leaving the reader to form his own con- 
clusions. Use has been made of the views and 
recollections of other persons, but only those known 
to be truthful and trustworthy. A thread of the 
narrative of Lincoln's life runs through the work, 
but an especial feature is an analysis of the man 
and a portrayal of his attributes and characteristics. 
The attempt to delineate his qualities, his nature 
and its manifestations, may occasion frequent repe- 
titions of fact, but if truthfully done this can only 
augment the store of matter from which posterity 
is to learn what manner of man he was. 

The object of this work is to deal with Mr. Lin- 
coln individually and domestically ; as lawyer, as 
citizen, as statesman. Especial attention is given to 
the history of his youth and early manhood ; and 
while dwelling on this portion of his life the liberty 
is taken to insert many things which would be 
omitted or suppressed in other places, where the 
cast-iron rules that govern magazine -writing are 
allowed to prevail. Thus much is stated in advance, 
so that no one need be disappointed in the scope 
and extent of the work. The endeavor is to keep 
Lincoln in sight all the time ; to cling close to his 
side all the way through — leaving to others the 
more comprehensive task of writing a history of his 
times. I have no theory of his life to establish or 
destroy. Mr. Lincoln was my warm, devoted friend. 


I always loved him, and I revere his name to this 
day. My purpose to tell the truth about him need 
occasion no apprehension ; for I know that " God's 
naked truth," as Carlyle puts it, can never injure 
the fame of Abraham Lincoln. It will stand that 
or any other test, and at last untarnished will reach 
the loftiest niche in American history. 

My long personal association with Mr. Lincoln 
gave me special facilities in the direction of obtain- 
ing materials for these volumes. Such were our 
relations during all that portion of his life when he 
was rising to distinction, that I had only to exer- 
cise a moderate vigilance in order to gather and 
preserve the real data of his personal career. Be- 
ing strongly drawn to the man, and believing in his 
destiny, I was not unobservant or careless in this 
respect. It thus happened that I became the per- 
sonal depositary of the larger part of the most valu- 
able Lincolniana in existence. Out of this store 
the major portion of the materials of the following 
volumes has been drawn. I take this, my first 
general opportunity, to return thanks to the scores 
of friends in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and else- 
where for the information they have so generously 
furnished and the favors they have so kindly 
extended me. Their names are too numerous for 
separate mention, but the recompense of each one 
will be the consciousness of having contributed a 
share towards a true history of the *' first Ameri- 

Over twenty years ago I began this book; but 
an active life at the bar has caused me to postpone 


the work of composition, until, now, being some- 
what advanced in years, I find myself unable to 
carry out the undertaking. Within the past three 
years I have been assisted in the preparation of the 
book by Mr. Jesse W. Weik, of Greencastle, Ind., 
whose industry, patience, and literary zeal have not 
only lessened my labors, but have secured for him 
the approbation of Lincoln's friends and admirers. 
Mr. Weik has by his personal investigation greatly 
enlarged our common treasure of facts and informa- 
tion. He has for several years been indefatigable 
in exploring the course of Lincoln's life. In no 
particular has he been satisfied with anything taken 
at second hand. He has visited — as I also did in 
1865 — Lincoln's birthplace in Kentucky, his early 
homes in Indiana and Illinois, and together, so to 
speak, he and I have followed our hero continu- 
ously and attentively till he left Springfield in 1861 
to be inaugurated President. We have retained 
the original MSS. in all cases, and they have never 
been out of our hands. In relating facts therefore, 
we refer to them in most cases, rather than to the 
statements of other biographers. 

This brief preliminary statement is made so that 
posterity, in so far as posterity may be interested in 
the subject, may know that the vital matter of this 
narrative has been deduced directly from the con- 
sciousness, reminiscences, and collected data of 

William H. Herndon. 

Springfield, III., 
November i, 1888. 



Introduction xix-xxviii 


Date and place of Lincoln's birth. — The interview with 
J. L. Scripps. — Lincoln's reference to his mother. — The 
Bible record. — The journal of William Calk. — The death of 
Abraham Lincoln, the President's grandfather. — Mordecai's 
revenge. — Thomas Lincoln, his marriage and married life. — 
Nancy Hanks, the President's mother. — Her sadness, her 
disposition and mental nature. — The camp-meeting at Eliza- 
bethtown. ......... 1-12 


Sarah Lincoln, — She attends school with her brother 
Abraham. — The tribute by Helm to Abe, the little boy. — 
Boyhood exploits with John Duncan and Austin Gollaher. — 
Dissatisfaction of Thomas Lincoln with Kentucky. — The 
removal to Indiana. — The " half-faced camp." — Thomas 
and Betsy Sparrow follow. — How Thomas Lincoln and the 
Sparrows farmed. — Life in the Lincoln cabin. — Abe and 
David Turnham go to mill. — Appearance of the "milk 
sick " in the Pigeon Creek settlement. — Death of the Spar- 
rows. — Death of Nancy Lincoln. — The widowerhood of 
Thomas Lincoln. — He marries Sarah Bush Johnston. — The 
Lincoln and Johnston children. — 'Tilda Johnston's indiscre- 
tion. — Attending school. — Abe's gallantry toward Kate 
Roby. — " Blue-Nose " Crawford and the book. — Schoolboy 
poetry. — Abe's habits of study. — Testimony of his step- 
mother. . 13-41 




e reads his first law-book. — The fight between John 
job ;ston and William Grigsby. — Recollections of Elizabeth 
(. > .- ford. — Marriage of Sarah Lincoln and Aaron Grigsby. 
-■ f] e wedding song. — More poetry. — Abe attends court at 
T) ! .eville. — The accident at Gordon's mill. — Borrowing 
]av/ Ijooks of Judge Pitcher. — Compositions on Temperance 
and Government. — The journey with Allen Gentry to New 
Orhans. — Return to Indiana. — Customs and superstition of 
iLv.- pioneers. — Reappearance of the "milk sick." — Rem.oval 
to liiinois. — Abe and his pet dog 42-59 


:" e settlement in Illinois. — Splitting rails with John 
Hiucs. — Building the boat for Offut. — The return to Illi- 
nc :-; — New Salem described. — Clerking on the election 
bo.ird. — The lizard story. — Salesman in Offut's store. — The 
V --'le with Jack Armstrong. — Studying in the store. — Dis- 
fi: 0; irance of Offut. — The Talisman. — Oliphant's poetry. — 
i h. reception at Springfield. — The Captain's wife. — Return 
ti[^)fthe Talisman. — Rowan Herndon and Lincoln pilot 
])< r airough. — The navigability of the Sangamon fully dem- 
« ".ir'ated. — The vessel reaches Beardstovvn. . . . 60-82 


■ e Black Hawk war. — Lincoln elected captain — Under 
aiie-i;. — Protecting the Indian. — Recollections of a com- 
rat'c — Lincoln re-enlists as a private. — Return to New 
.Siit-n. — Candidate for the Legislature. — The handbill. — 
T ;; -^ political speech. — The canvass. — Defeat. — Partnership 
i;^ -s store with Berry. — The trade with William Greene. — 
1^)1 1 re of the business. — Law studies. — Pettifogging. — 
.%t'"ries and poetry. — Referee in rural sports. — Deputy sur- 
veyor under John Calhoun. — Studying with Mentor Graham. 
-- Postmaster at New Salem. — The incident with Chand- 
ler. — Feats of strength. — Second race for the Legislature. — 
riecuon ... 83-118 




Lincoln falls in love with Anne Rutledge. — The old 
story. — Description of the girl. — The affair with John 
McNeil. — Departure of McNeil for New York. — Anne 
learns of the change of name. — Her faith under fire. — Lin- 
coln appears on the scene. — Courting in dead earnest. — 
Lincoln's proposal accepted. — The ghost of another love. — 
Death of Anne. — Effect on Lincoln's mind. — His suffering. 
— Kindness of Bowlin Greene. — " Oh, why should the spirit 
of mortal be proud ? " — Letter to Dr. Drake. — Return of 
McNamar. ......... 1 19-133 


An amusing courtship. — Lincoln meets Mary S. Owens. — 
Her nature, education, and mind. — Lincoln's boast. — He 
pays his addresses. — The lady's letters to Herndon. — Lin- 
coln's letters. — His avowals of affection. — The letter to Mrs. 
Browning. — Miss Owens' estimate of Lincoln. . , 134-152 


Lincoln a member of the Legislature at Vandalia. — First 
meeting with Douglas. — The society of Vandalia. — Pioneer 
legislation. — Deputy surveyor under Thomas M. Neal. — 
Candidate for the Legislature again. — Another handbill. — 
Favors " Woman's Rights." — The letter to Col. Robert 
Allen. — The canvass. — The answer to George Forquer. — 
The election, Lincoln leading the ticket. — The "Long 
Nine."— Reckless legislation.— The '* DeWitt Clinton" of 
Illinois. — Internal improvements. — The removal of the 
capital to Springfield. — The Committee on Finance. — The 
New England importation. — The Lincoln-Stone protest. — 
Return of the " Long Nine '' to Springfield. — Lincoln re- 
moves to Springfield. — Licensed to practise law. — In part- 
nership with John T. Stuart. — Early practice. — Generosity 
of Joshua F. Speed. — The bar of Springfield. — Speed's 
store. — Political discussions. — More poetry. — Lincoln ad- 
dresses the '• Young Men's Lyceum." — The debate in the 



Presbyterian Church. — Elected to the Legislature again, — 
Answering Col. Dick Taylor on the stump. — Rescue of 
Baker.— Last canvass for the Legislature. — The Thomas 
" skinning."— The Presidential canvass of 1840. . . 153-190! 


Lincoln still unmarried. — The Todd family. — Mary Todd. 
— Litroduced to Lincoln. — The courtship. — The flirtation 
with Douglas. — The advice of Speed. — How Lincoln broke 
the engagement. — Preparations for marriage. — A disap- 
pointed bride. — A crazy groom. — Speed takes Lincoln to 
Kentucky. — Restored spirits. — Return of Lincoln to Illinois. 
— Letters to Speed. — The party at Simeon Francis's house. 
■ — The reconciliation. — The marriage. — The duel with James 
Shields. — The " Rebecca " letters. — " Cathleen " invokes 
the muse. — Whiteside's account of the duel. — Merryman's 
account. — Lincoln's address before the Washingtonian Soci- 
ety. — Meeting with Martin Van Buren. — Partnership with 
Stephen T. Logan. — Partnership with William H. Herndon. 
— Congressional aspirations. — Nomination and election of 
John J. Hardin. — The Presidential campaign of 1844. — Lin- 
coln takes the stump in Southern Indiana. — Lincoln nomi- 
nated for Congress. — The canvass against Peter Cartwright. 
— Lincoln elected. — In Congress. — The " Spot Resolutions." ! 

— Opposes the Mexican war.— Letters to Herndon. — j 

Speeches in Congress. — Stumping through New England. — | 

A Congressman's trouble^^. — A characteristic letter. — End of 
Congressional term. ........ 191-280 


Lincoln takes part in the campaign in Massachusetts in 
1848. — The account of Edward L. Pierce. — Report of Bos- 
ton Advertiser. — Speeches in Boston, Dorchester, Chelsea, 
Dedham, and Cambridge. — Lincoln's impression on the 
Whigs. — Meets Governor Seward. — Editorial in Lowell 
Journal and Courier. — Reminiscence of ex-Governor Gard- 
ner. — Recollections of George II. Monroe. . . . 281-294 




Early married life. — Boarding at the " Globe Tavern." — 
A plucky little wife. — Niagara Falls. — The patent for lifting 
vessels over shoals. — Candidate for Commissioner of the 
Land Office. — The appointment of Butterfield. — The offer 
of Territorial posts by President Taylor. — A journey to 
Washington and incidents. — Return to Illinois. — Settling 
down to practice law. — Life on the circuit. — Story-telling. — 
Habits as lawyer and methods of study. — Law-office of Lin- 
coln and Herndon. — Recollections of Littlefield. — Studying 
Euclid. — Taste for literature. — Lincoln's first appearance in 
the Supreme Court of Illinois. — Professional honor and per- 
sonal honesty. — The juror in the divorce case. . . 295-331 


VOL. I. 


Abraham Lincoln, from a photograph by Alexander Hesler, 

Chicago, 1858 Frontispiece 

W. H. Herndon i 

The Lincoln family record ........ 5 

Sarah Bush Lincoln 28 

Lines written by Lincoln on the leaf of his school-book in his 

fourteenth year • • • 37 

House near Farmington, Coles County, Illinois, in which Thomas 

Lincoln died 61 

Mary S. Owens 138 

Springfield Court-House. Stuart and Lincoln's office, in 1839 . 172 
Items from Lincoln's fee-book, in his handwriting . . -177 

First Presbyterian Church, Springfield 183 

Joshua Fry Speed and wife 195 

The Edwards residence, Springfield, in which Lincoln and Mary 

Todd were married, and in which the latter died . . .215 

General James Shields 237 

U. S. Court Building, Springfield, 1850-1S60. Lincoln and 

Logan's office 250 

Lincoln and Herndon's law-office in 1S60 257 

Mary Todd Lincoln, Rev. Peter Cartvvright, Stephen T. Logan . 271 
The Globe Tavern, Springfield 295 


I WAS called upon during the lifetime of Mr. 
Herndon to write for the second edition of this 
work a chapter on the Lincoln-Douglas campaign 
of 1858. After this had been done and the book 
had been revised for the press, I was requested by 
the publishers to add something in the nature of 
a character sketch of Mr. Lincoln as I knew him 
before his fame had spread much beyond the con- 
fines of Illinois, and to tell what were those quali- 
ties that made him so attractive then. Of course, 
they were the same qualities which made him 
attractive afterward on a wider scale. The popu- 
lar judgment of him is, in the main, correct and 
unshakable. I say in the main, because there is in 
this judgment a tendency to apotheosis which, 
while pardonable, is not historical, and will not last. 

At the time when he was preparing himself un- 
consciously to be the nation's leader in a great 
crisis the only means of gaining public attention 
was by public speech. The press did not exist for 
him, or for the people among whom he lived. 
The ambitious young men of the day must make 
their mark by oratory, or not at all. There was 
no division of labor between the speaker and the 


editor. If a man was to gain any popularity he 
must gain it by talking into the faces of the peo- 
ple. He must have a ready tongue, and must be 
prepared to meet all comers and to accept all 
challenges. Stump-speaking, wrestling, story-tell- 
ing, and horse-racing were the only amusements 
of the people. In the first three of these Mr. 
Lincoln excelled. He grew up in this atmosphere, 
as did all his rivals. It was a school to develop 
all the debating powers that the community pos- 
sessed, and to bring them to a high degree of per- 
fection. Polish was not necessary to success, but 
plainness of diction was. The successful speaker 
was he who could make himself best understood 
by the common people, and m turn could best 
understand them. 

Among the earliest accounts that we get of Mr. 
Lincoln we find him talking to other boys from 
some kind of a platform. He had a natural gift, 
and he exercised it as opportunity came to him. 
When he arrived at man's estate these oppor- 
tunities came as often as could be desired. Other 
young men gifted in the same way were grow- 
ing up around him. Douglas, Baker, Trumbull, 
Hardin, Browning, Yates, Archibald Williams, 
Josiah Lamborn, and Lisle Smith were among 
them. All these had the same kind of training for 
public preferment that Lincoln had ; some of them 
had more book learning, but not much more. We 
have his own word for it that he was as ambitious 
of such preferment as Douglas was; and this was 
putting it in the superlative degree. 


The popular conception of Mr. Lincoln as one 
not seeking- public honors, but not avoiding pub- 
lic duties, is 2i post bclhun growth, very wide of the 
mark. He was entirely human in this regard, but 
his desire for political preferment was hedged 
about by a sense of obligation to the truth which 
nothing could shake. This fidelity to truth was 
ingrained and unchangeable. In all the speeches 
I ever heard him make — and they were many — he 
never even insinuated an untruth, nor did he ever 
fail when stating his opponent's positions to state 
them fully and fairly. He often stated his oppo- 
nent's position better than his opponent did or 
could. To say what was false, or even to leave his 
hearers under a wrong impression, was impossible 
to him. Within this high inclosure he was as am- 
bitious of earthly honors as any man of his time. 
Furthermore, he was an adept at log-rolling or 
any political game that did not involve falsity. I 
was Secretary of the Republican State Committee 
of Illinois during some years when he was in act- 
ive campaign work. He was often present at 
meetings ot the committee, although not a mem- 
ber, and took part in the committee work. His 
judgment was very much deferred to in such mat- 
ters. He was one of the shrewdest politicians of 
the State. Nobody had had more experience in 
that way, nobody knew better than he what was 
passing in the minds of the people. Nobody 
knew better how to turn things to advantage po- 
liticall}^ and nobody was readier to take such 
advantage, provided it did not involve dishonor- 



able means. He could not cheat people out of 
their votes any more than out of their money. 
The Abraham Lincoln that some people have 
pictured to themselves, sitting in his dingy law 
office, working over his cases till the voice of duty 
roused him, never existed. If this had been his 
type he never would have been called at all. It 
was precisely because he was up and stirring, and 
in hot, incessant competition with his fellows for 
earthly honors, that the public eye became fixed 
upon him and the public ear attuned to his words. 
Fortunate was it for all of us that he was no 
shrinking patriot, that he was moved as other men 
are moved, so that his fellows might take heed of 
him and know him as one of themselves, and as fit 
to be their leader in a crisis. 

Let me repeat and emphasize what I have here 
said. Mr. Lincoln never gave his assent, so far as 
my knowledge goes, to any plan or project for 
getting votes that would not have borne the full 
light of day. At the same time, he had no objec- 
tion to the getting of votes by the pledge of 
offices, nor was he too particular what kind of men 
got the offices. His preference was always for 
good men ; but he could not resist pressure 
where persons were concerned, even though his 
conscience told him that he was doing wrong. 

We have seen what kind of debating school Mr. 
Lincoln grew up in. It was the best possible 
school for him, and it was an advantage to him 
that he had able men for his competitors. Among 
them was Stephen A. Douglas, the most versatile, 


indomitable, and unscrupulous of all of them. He 
was Lincoln's rival, as is shown in these pages, 
for almost everything, from the hand of Mary 
Todd to the presidency of the United States. He 
had the strength and presence of a lion, with all 
the cunning of a fox. He possessed every quality 
which wins popular favor and high station except 
veracity, and I know of nothing in the pages of 
history more cheering to pious souls than the 
eventual triumph of Honest Abe over the Little 

It was by restless competition and rough-and- 
tumble with Douglas and others that Mr. Lincoln 
acquired that rare power of expression, by mouth 
and pen, which drew to himself the attention of the 
State and afterward of the nation and the world. 
He rarely used ornament in his speeches. Al- 
though gifted with the power of humor to an ex- 
traordinary degree, he seldom employed it in his 
later years except in private circles. Thus it came 
about that this growing master of logic, this pro- 
found and earnest debater of the most serious 
questions of the day, was the most popular of 
tavern loungers, and could draw more people to- 
gether and hold them longer by mere drollery 
and canicraderic than any other man I ever knew. 
Mr. Lincoln's nature was one of almost child-like 
sweetness. He did not '' put you at your ease " 
when you came into his presence. You felt at 
your ease without being put there. He never 
assumed superiority over anybody in the ordinary 
intercourse of life. 


A good test of this trait in his character was 
furnished in my own experience. When I was 
first thrown into his society I was just out of col- 
lege, and was as callow and as self-confident as 
boys usually are at that time of life. Mr. Lincoln 
was at the maturity of his powers. I was often 
with him when he had no other companion. In 
our intercourse he always paid marked deference 
to my opinions, and if we differed he would argue 
the point with me as earnestly as though I had 
been the opposing counsel in a lawsuit. And this 
he would do with anybody, young or old, ignorant 
or learned. I never heard him express contempt 
for any man's honest errors, although he would 
sometimes make a droll remark or tell a funny 
story about them. Deference to other people's 
opinions was habitual to him. There was no cal- 
culation, no politics in it. It was part and parcel 
of his sense of equal rights. His democracy was 
of the unconscious kind — he did not know any- 
thing different from it. Coupled with this was a 
habit of unselfishness and kindly temper most en- 
gaging to all who knew him or had any dealings 
with him. At the same time he knew Avhen he 
was imposed upon, and it was unsafe for anybody 
to presume upon his good nature or to take him 
for a flat. 

But more than intellectual gifts, more than good- 
fellowship, did the sense of justice give him his 
hold on others. That was a magnetic field whose 
influences could not be escaped. He carried it as 
unconsciously as he carried his hair. The Atheni- 


ans would never have ostracized him — indeed, they 
would never have called him the Just. They 
would have taken him as they took the bees on 
Hymettus — as one naturally searching after sweet 

To say that Mr. Lincoln was a man who had 
the courage of his convictions would be rather an 
under-statement. This was part and parcel of his 
sense of justice. He wore it as he wore his clothes, 
except that it fitted him much better than his gar- 
ments usually did. At the time I first knew him 
it was irksome to very many of his friends to be 
told that there ought to be an efficient fugitive 
slave law. But it was his conviction as a lawyer 
that there ought to be one, and he never failed to 
say so when interrogated, or when occasion re- 
quired that that subject should be touched upon. 
And it is a fact that abolitionists like Lovejoy and 
Codding would take this from Lincoln without 
murmuring, when they would not take it from 
anybody else. He never would echo the popular 
cry, *' No more slave States ! " Whenever this sub- 
ject was discussed he would say that if a Territory 
having the requisite population and belonging to 
us should apply for admission to the Union with- 
out fraud or constraint, yet with slavery, he could 
not see any other disposition to be made of her 
than to admit her. And when he had said this, 
even to an audience of radical antislavery men, 
there would be no protestations. Those who were 
not convinced would observe a respectful silence. 

Mr. Lincoln's facial expression when in repose 

XX vi J^ '^^ OD UC TION. 

and when animated presented most remarkable 
contrasts. I have before me a photograph of him 
taken at Pittsfield, Illinois, during the campaign 
of 1858. It looks as I have seen him a hundred 
times, his lantern jaws and large mouth and 
solid nose firmly set, his sunken eyes looking 
at nothing yet not unexpressive, his wrinkled and 
retreating forehead cut off by a mass of tousled 
hair, with a shade of melancholy drawn like a veil 
over his whole face. Nothing more unlike this 
can be imagined than the same Lincoln when tak- 
ing part in a conversation, or addressing an au- 
dience, or telling a story. The dull, listless feat- 
ures dropped like a mask. The melancholy shad- 
ow disappeared in a twinkling. The eye began 
to sparkle, the mouth to smile, the whole counte- 
nance was wreathed with animation, so that a 
stranger would have said : " Why, this man, so 
angular and somber a moment ago, is really hand- 

What more can be said of the qualities that first 
made Mr. Lincoln attractive to his contempora- 
ries? These were debating power, honesty of 
purpose, a child-like temper, purity of life, and 
courage of conviction. All these traits will be 
seen in the following pages, rising, unfolding, ex- 
panding in a regular, orderly, human way as the 
young Lincoln grew to mature years. 

What Mr. Lincoln was after he became Presi- 
dent can be best understood by knowing what he 
was before. The world owes more to William 
H. Herndon for this particular knowledge than to 


all other persons taken together. It is no ex- 
aggeration to say that his death, which took place 
at his farm near Springfield, Illinois, March i8, 
1 89 1, removed from earth the person who, of all 
others, had most thoroughly searched the sources 
of Mr. Lincoln's biography and had most atten- 
tively, intelligently, and also lovingly studied his 
character. He was generous in imparting his in- 
formation to others. Almost every life of Lincoln 
published since the tragedy at Ford's Theatre 
has been enriched by his labors. He was nine 
years the junior of Mr. Lincoln. Their partner- 
ship began in 1843, ^i^d it continued until it was 
dissolved by the death of the senior member. Be- 
tween them there was never an unkind word or 
thought. When Mr. Lincoln became President, Mr. 
Herndon could have had his fortunes materially 
advanced under the new Administration by saying 
a word. He was a poor man then and always, 
but he chose to remain in his more humble sta- 
tion and to earn his bread by his daily labor. 

Some six years ago Mr. Herndon conceived the 
project of writing a series of magazine articles 
intended to portray the youth and early manhood 
of Lincoln. Being somewhat infirm, he called Mr. 
Weik to his assistance, as he has explained in his 
preface. The magazine articles expanded insensi- 
bly to the present volumes. Lincolniana is in- 
creasing and is destined to increase. It has been 
enriched within recent years by the indispensable 
but too massive work of Nicolay and Hay, b}' the 
masterly essay of Schurz, and by the posthumous 


lecture of Greeley, which latter, being in reality 
if not in terms a hearty, ungrudging confession 
that he had underestimated Lincoln in his lifetime, 
is doubly welcome. As a portraiture of the man 
Lincoln — and this is what we look for above all 
things in a biography — I venture to think that 
Mr. Herndon's work will never be surpassed. 

Horace White. 

New York, February, i8g2. 



Beyond the fact that he was born on the I2th 
day of February, 1809, in Hardin county, Ken- 
tucky, Mr. Lincoln usually had but little to say of 
himself, the lives of his parents, or the history of 
the family before their removal to Indiana. If he 
mentioned the subject at all, it was with great re- 
luctance and significant reserve. There was some- 
thing about his origin he never cared to dwell 
upon. His nomination for the Presidency in i860, 
however, made the publication of his life a neces- 
sity, and attracted to Springfield an army of cam- 
paign biographers and newspaper men. They met 
him in his office, stopped him in his walks, and fol- 
lowed him to his house. Artists came to paint his 
picture, and sculptors to make his bust. His auto- 
graphs were in demand, and people came long dis- 
tances to shake him by the hand. This sudden ele- 
vation to national prominence found Mr. Lincoln 
unprepared in a great measure for the unaccus- 
tomed demonstrations that awaited him. While he 
was easy of approach and equally courteous to all, 



yet, as he said to me one evening after a long day 
of hand-shaking, he could not understand why 
people should make so much over him. 

Among the earliest newspaper men to arrive in 
Springfield after the Chicago convention was the 
late J. L. Scripps of the Chicago Tribune, who pro- 
posed to prepare a history of his life. Mr. Lincoln 
deprecated the idea of writing even a campaign 
biography. " Why, Scripps," said he, *' it is a great 
piece of folly to attempt to make anything out of 
me or my early life. It can all be condensed into a 
single sentence, and that sentence you will find in 
Gray's Elegy, 

* The short and simple annals of the poor.' 

That's my life, and that's all you or anyone else 
can make out of it." 

He did, however, communicate some facts and 
meagre incidents of his early days, and, with the 
matter thus obtained, Mr. Scripps prepared his 
book. Soon after the death of Lincoln I received 
a letter from Scripps, in which, among other things, 
he recalled the meeting with Lincoln, and the view 
he took of the biography matter. 

^' Lincoln seemed to be painfully impressed," he 
wrote, " with the extreme poverty of his early sur- 
roundings, and the utter absence of all romantic 
and heroic elements. He communicated some 
facts to me concerning his ancestry, which he did 
not wish to have published then, and which I have 
never spoken of or alluded to before." 

What the facts referred to by Mr. Scripps were 


we do not know ; for he died several years ago with- 
out, 50 far as is known reveaHng them to anyone. 

On the subject of his ancestry and origin I only 
remember one time when Mr. Lincoln ever referred 
to it. It was about 1850, when he and I were driving 
in his one-horse buggy to the court in Menard county, 
Illinois. The suit we were going to try was one in 
which we were likely, either directly or collaterally, 
to touch upon the subject of hereditary traits. Dur- 
ing the ride he spoke, for the first time in my hearing, 
of his mother, dwelling on her- characteristics, and 
mentioning or enumerating what qualities he inherit- 
ed from her. He said, among other things, that she 
was the daughter of Lucy Hanks and a well-bred but 
obscure Virginia farmer or planter ; and he argued 
that from this last source came his power of analysis, 
his logic, his mental activity, his ambition, and all 
the qualities that distinguished him from the other 
members and descendants of the Hanks family. 

In only two instances did Mr. Lincoln over his 
own hand leave any record of his history or family 
descent. One of these was the modest bit of auto- 
biography furnished to Jesse W. Fell, in 1859, ij"^ 
which, after stating that his parents were born in 
Virginia of " undistinguished or second families," he 
makes the brief mention of his mother, saying that 
she came '' of a family of the name of Hanks." * The 
other record was the register of marriages, births, and 
deaths which he made in his father's Bible. The 

* If anyone will take the pains to read the Fell autobiography they 
will be struck with Lincoln's meagre reference to his mother. He even 
fails to give her maiden or Christian name, and devotes but three lines 
to her family. A history of the ucobis . .cmipii ;> almost an entire page. 


latter now lies before me. That portion of the page 
which probably contained the record of the marriage 
of his parents, Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, 
has been lost ; but fortunately the records of Wash- 
ington county, Kentucky, and the certificate of the 
minister who performed the marriage ceremony — 
the Rev. Jesse Head — fix the fact and date of the 
latter on the I2th day of June, 1806. 

On the loth day of February in the following year 
a daughter Sarah * was born, and two years later, on 
the 1 2th of February, the subject of these memoirs 
came into the world. After him came the last child, 
a boy — named Thomas after his father — who lived 
but a few days. No mention of his existence is 
found in the Bible record. 

Abraham Lincoln, the grandfather of the Presi- 
dent, emigrated to Jefferson county, Kentucky, from 
Virginia, about 1780, and from that time forward 
the former State became an important one in the his- 
tory of the family, for in it was destined to be born 
its most illustrious member. About five years before 
this, a handful of Virginians had started across the 

* Most biographers of Lincoln, in speaking of Mr. Lincoln's sister, 
call her Nancy, some — notably Nicolay and Hay — insisting that she 
was known by that name among her family and friends. In this 
they are in error. I have interviewed the different members of the 
Hanks and Lincoln families who survived the President, and her 
name was invariably given as Sarah. The mistake, I think, arises 
from the fact that, in the Bible record referred to, all that portion 
relating to the birth of " Sarah, daughter of Thomas and Nancy Lin- 
coln," down to the word Nancy has been torn away, and the latter 
name has therefore been taken erroneously for that of the daughter. 
Reading the entry of Abraham's birth below satisfies one that it 
must refer to the mother. 



mountains for Kentucky, and in the company 
besides their historian, William CaIk,-whose diary 
recently came to light,-was one Abraham Hanks 
They were evidently a crowd of jolly young men 
bent on adventure and fun, but their sport was 
attended with frequent disasters. Their journey 
began at - Mr. Priges' tavern on the Rapidan." 
When only a few days out - Hanks' Dog's leg got 
broke." Later in the course of the journey. Hanks 
and another companion became separated from the 
rest of the party and were lost in the mountains for 
two days ; in crossing a stream -Abraham's saddle 
turned over and his load all fell in Indian creek"- 
finally they meet their brethren from whom they 
have been separated and then pursue their way 
without further interruption. Returning emigrants 
whom they meet, according to the journal of Calk 
'' tell such News of the indians " that certain mem' 
bers of the company are - afrade to go aney further." 
Ihe following day more or less demoralization 
takes place among the members of this pioneer 
party when the announcement is made, as their 
chronicler so faithfully records it, that -Philip 
Drake Bakes bread without washing his hands." 
This was an unpardonable sin, and at it they 
revolted. A day later the record shows that 
Abram turns Back." Beyond this we shall never 
know what became of Abraham Hanks, for no fur- 
ther mention of him is made in this or any other 
history. He may have returned to Virginia and 
become, for aught we know, one of the President's 
ancestors on the maternal side of the house ; but if 


SO his illustrious descendant was never able to estab- 
lish the fact or trace his lineage satisfactorily 
beyond the first generation which preceded him. 
He never mentioned who his maternal grandfather 
was, if indeed he knew. 

His paternal grandfather, Abraham Lincoln,* the 
pioneer from Virginia, met his death within two 
years after his settlement in Kentucky at the hands 
of the Indians ; '' not in battle," as his distinguished 
grandson tells us, *' but by stealth, when he was 
laboring to open a farm in the forest." The story 
of his death in sight of his youngest son Thomas, 
then only six years old, is by no means a new one to 
the world. In fact I have often heard the President 
describe the tragedy as he had inherited the story 
from his father. The dead pioneer had three sons, 
Mordecai, Josiah, and Thomas, in the order named. 
When the father fell, Mordecai, having hastily sent 
Josiah to the neighboring fort after assistance, ran 
into the cabin, and pointing his rifle through a 
crack between the logs, prepared for defense. 
Presently an Indian came stealing up to the dead 
father's body. Beside the latter sat the little boy 
Thomas. Mordecai took deliberate aim at a silver 
crescent which hung suspended from the Indian's 
oreast, and brought him to the ground. Josiah 
returned from the fort with the desired relief, and 

*"They [the Lincolns] were also called Linkhorns. The old 
lettlers had a way of pronouncing names not as they were spelled, 
)ut rather, it seemed, as they pleased. Thus they called Medcalf 

' Medcap,' and Raster they pronounced * Custard.' " — MS. letter, 

Charles Friend, March 19, 1866. 


the savages were easily dispersed, leaving behind 
one dead and one wounded. 

The tragic death of his father filled Mordecai 
with an intense hatred of the Indians— a feeling 
from which he never recovered. It was ever with 
him like an avenging spirit. From Jefferson county 
he removed to Grayson, where he spent the re- 
mamder of his days. A correspondent* from 
there wrote me in 1865: -Old Mordecai was easily 
stirred up by the sight of an Indian. One 
time, hearing of a few Indians passing through 
the county, he mounted his horse, and taking his 
rifle on his shoulder, followed on after them'' and 
was gone two days. When he returned he said 
he left one lying in a sink hole. The Indians, he 
said, had killed his father, and he was determined 
before he died to have satisfaction." The young, 
est boy, Thomas, retained a vivid recollection of hts 
father's death, which, together with other remi- 
niscences of his boyhood, he was fond of relating 
later in life to his children to relieve the tedium 
ot long winter evenings. Mordecai and Josiah f 
both remaining in Kentucky, became the heads of 
good-sized f amilies, and although never known or 

*W. T. Claggctt, unpublished MS. 

t"I knew Mordecai and Josiah Lincoln intimately. They Nyere 
excellent men, plain, moderately educated, candid in 'their manners 
and intercourse, and looked upon as honorable as any men I haye 
ever heard o. Mordecai .as the oldest son, and his father haying 

reoTaled H 'V '."'""^ '^'^" ^^" ^"^ °^ primogeniture wa! 
repealed, he n.hented a yery competent estate. The others were 
poor. Mordecai was celebrated for his bravery, and had been in the 
early campaigns of the West."-IIenry Pirtle, letter, June 17, 1S65, MS 


heard of outside the limits of the neighborhoods in 
which they lived, were intelligent, well-to-do men. 
In Thomas, roving and shiftless, to whom was 
*' reserved the honor of an illustrious paternity," are 
we alone interested. He was, we are told, five feet 
ten inches high, weighed one hundred and ninety- 
five pounds, had a well-rounded face, dark hazel 
eyes, coarse black hair, and was slightly stoop- 
shouldered. His build was so compact that Dennis 
Hanks used to say he could not find the point of 
separation between his ribs. He was proverbially 
slow of movement, mentally and physically ; was 
careless, inert, and dull ; was sinewy, and gifted 
with great strength ; was inoffensively quiet and 
peaceable, but when roused to resistance a danger- 
ous antagonist. He had a liking for jokes and 
stories, which was one of the few traits he trans- 
mitted to his illustrious son ; was fond of the chase, 
and had no marked aversion for the bottle, though 
in the latter case he indulged no more freely than 
the average Kentuckian of his day. At the time 
of his marriage to Nancy Hanks he could neither 
read nor write ; but his wife, who was gifted with 
more education, and was otherwise his mental supe- 
rior, taught him, it is said, to write his name and 
to read — at least, he was able in later years to spell 
his way slowly through the Bible. In his relig- 
ious belief he first affiliated with the Free-Will 
Baptists. After his removal to Indiana he changed 
his adherence to the Presbyterians — or Predestina- 
rians, as they were then called — and later united 
with the Christian — vulgarly called Campbellite — 


Church, in which latter faith he is supposed to have 
died. He was a carpenter by trade, and essayed 
farming too ; but in this, as in almost every other 
undertaking, he was singularly unsuccessful. He 
was placed in possession of several tracts of land at 
different times in his life, but was never able to pay 
for a single one of them. The farm on which he 
died was one his son purchased, providing a life 
estate therein for him and his wife. He never fell 
in with the routine of labor ; was what some people 
would call unfortunate or unlucky in all his business 
ventures — if in reality he ever made one — and died 
near the village of Farmington in Coles county, 
Illinois, on the 17th day of January, 185 1. His son, 
on account of sickness in his own family, was 
unable to be present at his father's bedside, or wit- 
ness his death. To those who notified him of his 
probable demise he wrote : " I sincerely hope that 
father may yet recover his health ; but at all events 
tell him to remember to call upon and confide in 
our great and good and merciful Maker, who will 
not turn away from him in any extremity. He 
notes the fall of a sparrow, and numbers the hairs 
of our heads ; and He will not forget the dying man 
who puts his trust in him. Say to him that if we 
could meet now it is doubtful whether it would not 
be more painful than pleasant ; but that if it be his 
lot to go now he will soon have a joyous meeting 
with the many loved ones gone before, and where 
the rest of us, through the help of God, hope ere 
long to join them." '^ 

* MS. letter to John Johnston, Jan. 12, 1S51. 


Nancy Hanks, the mother of the President, at a 
very early age was taken from her mother Lucy — 
afterwards married to Henry Sparrow — and sent to 
live with her aunt and uncle, Thomas and Betsy 
Sparrow. Under this same roof the irrepressible 
and cheerful waif, Dennis Hanks* — whose name will 
be frequently seen in these pages — also found a shel- 
ter. At the time of her marriage to Thomas Lin- 
coln, Nancy was in her twenty-third year. She 
was above the ordinary height in stature, weighed 
about 130 pounds, was slenderly built, and had 
much the appearance of one inclined to consump- 
tion. Her skin was dark; hair dark brown; eyes 
gray and small ; forehead prominent ; face sharp and 
angular, with a marked expression of melancholy 
which fixed itself in the memory of everyone who 
ever saw or knew her. Though her life was seem- 
ingly beclouded by a spirit of sadness, she was in 
disposition amiable and generally cheerful. Mr. 
Lincoln himself said to me in 185 1, on receiving 
the news of his father's death, that whatever might 
be said of his parents, and however unpromising the 
early surroundings of his mother may have been, she 
was highly intellectual by nature, had a strong 
memory, acute judgment, and was cool and heroic. 
From a mental standpoint she no doubt rose above 
her surroundings, and had she lived, the stimulus of 

* Dennis Hanks, still living at the age of ninety years in Illinois, 
was the son of another Nancy Hanks — the aunt of the President's 
mother. He furnished Mr. Weik and me with much interesting 
information, especially facts and incidents relating to early life in 


her nature would have accelerated her son's success, 
and she would have been a much more ambitious 
prompter than his father ever was. 

As a family the Hankses were peculiar to the civ- 
ilization of early Kentucky. Illiterate and super- 
stitious, they corresponded to that nomadic class 
still to be met with throughout the South, and 
known as " poor whites." They are happily and 
vividly depicted in the description of a camp-meet- 
ing held at Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in 1 806, which 
was furnished me in August, 1865, by an eye-wit- 
ness.'^ *'The Hanks girls," narrates the latter, 
"were great at camp-meetings. I remember one 
in 1806. I will give you a scene, and if you will 
then read the books written on the subject you may 
find some apology for the superstition that was said 
to be in Abe Lincoln's character. It was at a 
camp-meeting, as before said, when a general shout 
was about to commence. Preparations were being 
made ; a young lady invited me to stand on a bench 
by her side where we could see all over the altar. 
To the right a strong, athletic young man, about 
twenty-five years old, was being put in trim for the 
occasion, which was done by divesting him of all 
apparel except shirt and pants. On the left a 
young lady was being put in trim in much the same 
manner, so that her clothes would not be in the 
way, and so that, when her combs flew out, her hair 
would go into graceful braids. She, too, was 
young — not more than twenty perhaps. The per- 

*J. B. Helm, MS. 


formance commenced about the same time by the 
young man on the right and the young lady on the 
left. Slowly and gracefully they worked their way 
towards the centre, singing, shouting, hugging and 
kissing, generally their own sex, until at last nearer 
and nearer they came. The centre of the altar was 
reached, and the two closed, with their arms around 
each other, the man singing and shouting at the 
top of his voice, 

'• ' I have my Jesus in my arms 

Sweet as honey, strong as bacon ham.* 

" Just at this moment the young lady holding to 
my arm whispered, ' They are to be married next 
week; her name is Hanks.' There were very few 
who did not believe this true religion, inspired by 
the Holy Spirit, and the man who could not believe 
it, did well to keep it to himself. The Hankses were 
the finest singers and shouters in our country." 

Here my informant stops, and on account of his 
death several years ago I failed to learn whether 
the young lady shouter who figured in the foregoing 
scene was the President's mother or not. The fact 
that Nancy Hanks did marry that year gives color 
to the belief that it was she. As to the probability 
of the young man being Thomas Lincoln it is diffi- 
cult to say ; such a performance as the one de- 
scribed must have required a little more emotion 
and enthusiasm than the tardy and inert carpenter 
was in the habit of manifesting. 


Sarah, the sister of Abraham Lincoln, though in 
some respects like her brother, lacked his stature. 
She was thick-set, had dark-brown hair, deep-gray 
eyes, and an even disposition. In contact with 
others she was kind and considerate. Her nature 
was one of amiability, and God had endowed her 
with that invincible combination — modesty and 
good sense. Strange to say, Mr. Lincoln never said 
much about his sister in after years, and we are 
really indebted to the Hankses — Dennis and John — 
for the little we have learned about this rather un- 
fortunate young woman. She was married to 
Aaron Grigsby, in Spencer county, Indiana, in the 
month of August, 1826, and died January 20, 1828. 
Her brother accompanied her to school while they 
lived in Kentucky, but as he was only seven, and 
as she had not yet finished her ninth year when 
their father removed with them to Indiana, it is to 
be presumed that neither made much progress in 
the matter of school education. Still it is authori- 
tatively stated that they attended two schools dur- 
ing this short period. One of these was kept by 
Zachariah Riney, the other by Caleb Hazel. It 
is difficult at this late day to learn much of the boy 
Abraham's life during those seven years of resi- 




dence in Kentucky. One man, * who was a clerk in 

the principal store in the village where the Lincolns 
purchased their family supplies, remembers him as 
a " small boy who came sometimes to the store with 
his mother. He would take his seat on a keg of 
nails, and I would give him a lump of sugar. He 
would sit there and eat it like any other boy ; but 
these little acts of kindness," observes my inform- 
ant, in an enthusiastic statement made in 1865, ''so 
impressed his mind that I made a steadfast friend 
in a man whose power and influence have since 
been felt throughout the world." A school-mate f 
of Lincoln's at Hazel's school, speaking of the mas- 
ter, says: "He perhaps could teach spelling and 
reading and indifferent writing, and possibly could 
cipher to the rule of three ; but he had no other 
qualification of a teacher, unless we accept large size 
and bodily strength. Abe was a mere spindle 
of a boy, had his due proportion of harmless mis- 
chief, but as we lived in a country abounding in 
hazel switches, in the virtue of which the master 
had great faith, Abe of course received his due 

This part of the boy's history is painfully vague 
and dim, and even after arriving at man's estate 
Mr. Lincoln was significantly reserved when refer- 
ence was made to it. It is barely mentioned in the 
autobiography furnished to Fell in 1859. John 
Duncan, if afterwards a preacher of some promi- 

* John B. Helm, June 20, 1865. 

t Samuel Haycraft, December 6, 1866. 

X Letter, February 21, 1867. 


nence in Kentucky, relates how he and Abe on 
one occasion ran a ground-hog into a crevice be- 
tween two rocks, and after working vainly almost 
two hours to get him out, *'Abe ran off about 
a quarter of a mile to a blacksmith shop, and 
returned with an iron hook fastened to the end of a 
pole," and with this rude contrivance they virtually 
*' hooked "the animal out of his retreat. Austin 
Gollaher of Hodgensville, claims to have saved Lin- 
coln from drowning one day as they were trying to 
" coon it " across Knob creek on a log. The boys 
were in pursuit of birds, when young Lincoln fell 
into the water, and his vigilant companion, who 
still survives to narrate the thrilling story, fished 
him out with a sycamore branch. 

Meanwhile Thomas Lincoln was becoming daily 
more dissatisfied with his situation and surround- 
ings. He had purchased, since his marriage, on the 
easy terms then prevalent, two farms or tracts of 
land in succession ; no terms were easy enough for 
him, and the land, when the time for the payment of 
the purchase-money rolled around, reverted to its 
former owner. Kentucky, at that day, afforded 
few if any privileges, and possessed fewer advan- 
tages to allure the poor man ; and no doubt so it 
seemed to Thomas Lincoln. The land he occupied 
was sterile and broken. A mere barren glade, and 
destitute of timber, it required a persistent effort to 
coax a living out of it ; and to one of his easy-going 
disposition, life there was a never-ending struggle. 
Stories of vast stretches of rich and unoccupied 
lands in Indiana reaching his ears, and despairing of 


the prospect of any betterment in his condition so 
long as he remained in Kentucky, he resolved, at 
last, to leave the State and seek a more inviting 
lodgment beyond the Ohio. The assertion made 
by some of Mr. Lincoln's biographers, and so often 
repeated by sentimental writers, that his father left 
Kentucky to avoid the sight of or contact with 
slavery, lacks confirmation. In all Hardin county 
— at that time a large area of territory — there 
were not over fifty slaves ; and it is doubtful if he 
saw enough of slavery to fill him with the righteous 
opposition to the institution with which he has so 
frequently been credited. Moreover, he never in 
later years manifested any especial aversion to 

Having determined on emigrating to Indiana, he 
began preparations for removal in the fall of 1816 
by building for his use a flat-boat. Loading it with 
his tools and other personal effects, including in the 
invoice, as we are told, four hundred gallons of 
whiskey, he launched his " crazy craft " on a tribu- 
tary of Salt creek known as the Rolling Fork. 
Along with the current he floated down to the Ohio 
river, but his rudely-made vessel, either from the 
want of experience in its navigator, or because of 
its ill adaptation to withstand the force and caprices 
of the currents in the great river, capsized one day, 
and boat and cargo went to the bottom. The luck- 
less boatman set to work however, and by dint of 
great patience and labor succeeded in recovering 
the tools and the bulk of the whiskey. Righting 
his boat, he continued down the river, landing at a 


point called Thompson's Ferry, in Perry county, on 
the Indiana side. Here he disposed of his vessel, 
and placing his goods in the care of a settler named 
Posey, he struck out through the interior in search 
of a location for his new home. Sixteen miles back 
from the river he found one that pleased his fancy, 
and he marked it off for himself. His next move in 
the order of business was a journey to Vincennes to 
purchase the tract at the Land Office — under the 
" two-dollar-an-acre law," as Dennis Hanks puts it 
— and a return to the land to identify it by blazing 
the trees and piling up brush on the corners to 
establish the proper boundary lines. Having se- 
cured a place for his home he trudged back to Ken- 
tucky — walking all the way — for his family. Two 
horses brought them and all their household effects 
to the Indiana shore. Posey kindly gave or hired 
them the use of a wagon, into which they packed 
not only their furniture and carpenter tools, but the 
liquor, which it is presumed had lain undisturbed in 
the former's cellar. Slowly and carefully picking 
their way through the dense woods, they at kst 
reached their destination on the banks of Little 
Pigeon creek. There were some detentions on the 
way, but no serious mishaps. 

The head of the household now set resolutely to 
work to build a shelter for his family. 

The structure, when completed, was fourteen feet 
square, and was built of small unhewn logs. In the 
language of the day, it was called a ''half-faced 
camp," being enclosed on all sides but one. It had 
neither floor, door, nor windows. In this forbidding 


hovel these doughty emigrants braved the exposure 
of the varying seasons for an entire year. At the 
end of that time Thomas and Betsy Sparrow fol- 
lowed, bringing with them Dennis Hanks; and to 
them Thomas Lincoln surrendered the "half-faced 
camp," while he moved into a more pretentious 
structure — a cabin enclosed on all sides. The coun- 
try was thickly covered with forests of walnut, 
beech, oak, elm, maple, and an undergrowth of 
dog-wood, sumac, and wild grape-vine. In places 
where the growth was not so thick grass came up 
abundantly, and hogs found plenty of food in the 
unlimited quantity of mast the woods afforded. 
The country abounded in bear, deer, turkey, and 
other wild game, which not only satisfied the 
pioneer's love for sport, but furnished his table with 
its supply of meat. 

Thomas Lincoln, with the aid of the Hankses and 
Sparrows, was for a time an attentive farmer. The 
implements of agriculture then in use were as rude 
as they were rare, and yet there is nothing to show 
that in spite of the slow methods then in vogue he 
did not make commendable speed. ** We raised 
corn mostly " — relates Dennis — " and some wheat — 
enough for a cake Sunday morning. Hog and veni- 
son hams were a legal tender, and coon skins also. 
We raised sheep and cattle, but they did not bring 
much. Cows and calves were only worth six to 
eight dollars ; corn ten cents, and wheat twenty-five 
cents, a bushel." So with all his application and 
frugality the head of this ill-assorted household 


made but little headway in the accumulation of the 
world's goods. We are told that he was indeed z 
poor man, and that during his entire stay in Indi- 
ana his land barely yielded him sufficient return 
to keep his larder supplied with the commonest 
necessaries of life. His skill as a hunter-though 
never brought into play unless at the angered de- 
mand of a stomach hungry for meat— in no slight 
degree made up for the lack of good management 
m the cultivation of his land. His son Abraham * 
never evinced the same fondness for hunting, 
although his cousin Dennis with much pride tells 
us how he could kill a wild turkey on the wing. 
"At that time," relates one of the latter's play- 
mates.t descanting on the abundance of wild game, 
" there were a great many deer-licks ; and Abe and 
myself would go to these licks sometimes and watch 
of nights to kill deer, though Abe was not so fond 
of a gun or the sport as I was."i 

*"Abe was a good boy— an affectionate one— a boy who loved 
his parents well and was obedient to their every wish. Although 
anything but an impudent or rude boy he was sometimes uncomfort- 
ably inquisitive. When strangers would ride along or pass by his 
father's fence he always— either through boyish pride or to tease his 
father— would be sure to ask the first question. His father would 
sometimes knock him over. When thus punished he never bellowed, 
but dropped a kind of silent, unwelcome tear as evidence of his 
sensitiveness or other feelings."— Dennis Hanks, MS., June 13, 1865. 

t David Turnham, MS. letter, June 10, 1866. 

I Mr. Lincoln used to relate the following " coon " story : His father 
had at home a little yellow house-dog, which invariably gave the 
alarm if the boys undertook to slip away unobserved after night had 
set in— as they oftentimes did— to go coon hunting. One evening 


The cabin to which the Lincoln family removed 
after leaving the little half-faced camp to the Spar- 
rows was in some respects a pretentious structure. It 
was of hewed logs, and was eighteen feet square. It 
was high enough to admit of a loft, where Abe slept, 
and to which he ascended each night by means of 
pegs driven in the wall. The rude furniture was 
in keeping with the surroundings. Three-legged 
stools answered for chairs. The bedstead, made of 
poles fastened in the cracks of the logs on one side, 
and supported by a crotched stick driven in the 
ground floor on the other, was covered with skins, 
leaves, and old clothes. A table of the same finish 
as the stools, a few pewter dishes, a Dutch oven, 
and a skillet completed the household outfit. In 
this uninviting frontier structure the future Pres- 
ident was destined to pass the greater part of his 
boyhood. Withal his spirits were light, and it can- 
Abe and his step-brother, John Johnston, with the usual complement 
of boys required in a sucessful coon hunt, took the insignificant 
little cur with them. They located the coveted coon, killed him, and 
then in a sportive vein sewed the hide on the diminutive yellow dog. 
The latter struggled vigorously during the operation of sewing on, 
and being released from the hands of his captors made a bee-line for 
home. Other large and more important canines, on the way, 
scenting coon, tracked the little animal home, and possibly mistaking 
him for real coon, speedily demolished him. The next morning old 
Thomas Lincoln discovered lying in his yard the lifeless remains 
of yellow " Joe," with strong proof of coon-skin accompaniment. 
•* Father was much incensed at his death," observed Mr. Lincoln, in 
relating the story, " but as John and I, scantily protected from the 
morning wind, stood shivering in the doorway, we felt assured little 
yellow Joe would never be able again to sound the call for another 
coon hunt." 


not be denied that he must have enjoyed unre- 
strained pleasure in his surroundings. It is related 
that one day the only thing that graced the dinner- 
table was a dish of roasted potatoes. The elder 
Lincoln, true to the custom of the day, returned 
thanks for the blessing. The boy, realizing the 
scant proportions of the meal, looked up into his 
father's face and irreverently observed, ** Dad, I call 
these " — meaning the potatoes — *' mighty poor bless- 
ings." Among other children of a similar age he 
seemed unconsciously to take the lead, and it is no 
stretch of the truth to say that they, in turn, looked 
up to him. He may have been a little precocious — 
children sometimes are — but in view of the summary 
treatment received at the hands of his father it 
cannot truthfully be said he was a " spoiled child." 
One morning when his mother was at work he ran 
into the cabin from the outside to enquire, with a 
quizzical grin, ** Who was the father of Zebedee's 
children ? " As many another mother before and 
since has done, she brushed the mischievous young 
inquirer aside to attend to some more important 
detail of household concern.^ 

The dull routine of chores and household errands 
in the boy's every-day life was brightened now and 
then by a visit to the mill. I often in later years 
heard Mr. Lincoln say that going to mill gave him 
the greatest pleasure of his boyhood days. 

''We had to go seven miles to mill," relates 
David Turnham, the friend of his youth, '* and then 

* Harriet Chapman, MS. letter. 


it was a hand-mill that would only grind from fif- 
teen to twenty bushels of corn in a day. There 
was but little wheat grown at that time, and when 
we did have wheat we had to grind it in the mill 
described and use it without bolting, as there were 
no bolts in the country. Abe and I had to do the 
milling, frequently going twice to get one grist." 

In his eleventh year he began that marvellous and 
rapid growth in stature for which he was so widely 
noted in the Pigeon creek settlement. **As he 
shot up," says Turnham, *' he seemed to change in 
appearance and action. Although quick-witted and 
ready with an answer, he began to exhibit deep 
thoughtfulness, and was so often lost in studied 
reflection we could not help noticing the strange 
turn in his actions. He disclosed rare timidity and 
sensitiveness, especially in the presence of men and 
women, and although cheerful enough in the pres- 
ence of the boys, he did not appear to seek our 
company as earnestly as before." "^ It was only the 
development we find in the history of every boy. 
Nature was a little abrupt in the case of Abraham 
Lincoln; she tossed him from the nimbleness of 
boyhood to the gravity of manhood in a single 

In the fall of 1818, the scantily settled region in 
the vicinity of Pigeon creek — where the Lincolns 
were then living — suffered a visitation of that dread 
disease common in the West in early days, and 
known in the vernacular of the frontier as " the 

* D. Turnham, MS. letter. 


milk-sick.** It hovered like a spectre over the Pig- 
eon creek settlement for over ten years, and its 
fatal visitation and inroads among the Lincolns, 
Hankses, and Sparrows finally drove that contin- 
gent into Illinois. To this day the medical profes- 
sion has never agreed upon any definite cause for 
the malady, nor have they in all their scientific 
wrangling determined exactly what the disease it- 
self is. A physician, who has in his practice met a 
number of cases, describes the symptoms to be '' a 
whitish coat on the tongue, burning sensation of 
the stomach, severe vomiting, obstinate constipa- 
tion of the bowels, coolness of the extremities, 
great restlessness and jactitation, pulse rather small, 
somewhat more frequent than natural, and slightly 
chorded. In the course of the disease the coat on 
the tongue becomes brownish and dark, the counte- 
nance dejected, and the prostration of the patient is 
great. A fatal termination may take place in sixty 
hours, or life may be prolonged for a period of four- 
teen days. These are the symptoms of the disease 
in an acute form. Sometimes it runs into the 
chronic form, or it may assume that form from the 
commencement, and after months or years the 
patient may finally die or recover only a partial 
degree of health." 

When the disease broke out in the Pigeon creek 
region it not only took off the people, but it made 
sad havoc among the cattle. One man testifies 
that he ''lost four milch cows and eleven calves in 
one week." This, in addition to the risk of losing 
his own life, was enough, he declared, to ruin him^ 


and prompted him to leave for *' points further 

Early in October of the year 1818, Thomas and 
Betsy Sparrow fell ill of the disease and died with- 
in a few days of each other. Thomas Lincoln per- 
formed the services of undertaker. With his whip- 
saw he cut out the lumber, and with commendable 
promptness he nailed together the rude coffins to 
enclose the forms of the dead. The bodies were 
borne to a scantily cleared knoll in the midst of the 
forest, and there, without ceremony, quietly let 
down into the grave. Mean\Vhile Abe's mother 
had also fallen a victim to the insidious disease. 
Her sufferings, however, were destined to be of 
brief duration. Within a week she too rested from 
her labors. '' She struggled on, day by day," says 
one of the household, '' a good Christian woman, 
and died on the seventh day after she was taken 
sick. Abe and his sister Sarah waited on their 
mother, and did the little jobs and errands required 
of them. There was no physician nearer than 
thirty-five miles. The mother knew she was going 
to die, and called the children to her bedside. She 
was very weak, and the children leaned over while 
she gave her last message. Placing her feeble hand 
on little Abe's head she told him to be kind and 
good to his father and sister; to both she said, * Be 
good to one another,' expressing a hope that they 
might live, as they had been taught by her, to love 
their kindred and worship God." Amid the misera- 
ble surroundings of a home in the wilderness Nancy 
Hanks passed across the dark river. Though of 


lowly birth, the victim of poverty and hard usage, 
she takes a place in history as the mother of a son 
who liberated a race of men. At her side stands 
another Mother whose son performed a similar ser- 
vice for all mankind eighteen hundred years before. 
After the death of their mother little Abe and 
his sister Sarah began a dreary life — indeed, one 
more cheerless and less inviting seldom falls to the 
lot of any child. In a log-cabin without a floor, 
scantily protected from the severities of the 
weather, deprived of the comfort of a mother's love, 
they passed through a winter the most dismal either 
one ever experienced. Within a few months, and 
before the close of the winter, David Elkin, an 
itinerant preacher whom Mrs. Lincoln had known 
in Kentucky, happened into the settlement, and in 
response to the invitation from the family and 
friends, delivered a funeral sermon over her grave. 
No one is able now to 'remember the language of 
Parson Elkin's discourse, but it is recalled that he 
commemorated the virtues and good phases of 
character, and passed in silence the few short- 
comings and frailties of the poor woman sleeping 
under the winter's snow. She had done her work 
in this world. Stoop-shouldered, thin-breasted, sad, 
— at times miserable, — groping through the per- 
plexities of life, without prospect of any betterment 
in her condition, she passed from earth, little 
dreaming of the grand future that lay in store for 
the ragged, hapless little boy who stood at her bed- 
side in the last days of her life. 

Thomas Lincoln's widowcrhood was brief. He 


had scarcely mourned the death of his first wife a 
year until he reappeared in Kentucky at Elizabeth- 
town in search of another. His admiration had 
centred for a second time on Sally Bush, the 
widow of Daniel Johnston, the jailer of Hardin 
county, who had died several years before of a 
disease known as the " cold plague." The tradition 
still kept alive in the Kentucky neighborhood is 
that Lincoln had been a suitor for the hand of the 
lady before his marriage to Nancy Hanks, but that 
she had rejected him for the hand of the more fortu- 
nate Johnston. However that may have been, it is 
certain that he began his campaign in earnest this 
time, and after a brief siege won her heart. '' He 
made a very short courtship," wrote Samuel Hay- 
craft * to me in a letter, December 7, 1866. ** He 
came to see her on the first day of December, 18 19, 
and in a straightforward manner told her that they 
had known each other from childhood. ^ Miss John- 
ston,' said he, ' I have no wife and you no husband. 
I came a-purpose to marry you. I knowed you 
from a gal and you knowed me from a boy. I've 
no time to lose ; and if you're willin' let it be done 
straight off.' She replied that she could not marry 
him right off, as she had some little debts which she 
wanted to pay first. He replied, 'Give me a list of 
them.* He got the list and paid them that even- 
ing. Next morning I issued the license, and they 
were married within sixty yards of my house." 
Lincoln's brother-in-law, Ralph Krume, and his 

* Clerk of the Court. MS. 


four horses and spacious wagon were again brought 
into requisition. With commendable generosity- 
he transported the newly married pair and their 
household effects to their home in Indiana. The 
new Mrs. Lincoln was accompanied by her three 
children, John, Sarah, and Matilda. Her social 
status is fixed by the comparison of a neighbor, who 
observed that "life among the Hankses, the Lin- 
colns, and the Enlows was a long ways below life 
among the Bushes." 

In the eyes of her spouse she could not be re- 
garded as a poor widow. She was the owner of a 
goodly stock of furniture and household goods ; 
bringing with her among other things a walnut 
bureau valued at fifty dollars. What effect the new 
family, their collection of furniture, cooking uten- 
sils, and comfortable bedding must have had on the 
astonished and motherless pair who from the door 
of Thomas Lincoln's forlorn cabin watched the well- 
filled wagon as it came creaking through the woods 
can better be imagined than described. Surely 
Sarah and Abe, as the stores of supplies were rolled 
in through the doorless doorways, must have be- 
lieved that a golden future awaited them. The 
presence and smile of a motherly face in the cheer- 
less cabin radiated sunshine into every neglected 
corner. If the Lincoln mansion did not in every 
respect correspond to the representations made by 
its owner to the new Mrs. Lincoln before marriage, 
the latter gave no expression of disappointment or 
even surprise. With true womanly courage and 
zeal she set resolutely to work to make right that 


which seemed wrong. Her }iusband was made to 
put a floor in the cabin, as well as to supply doors 
and windows. The cracks between the logs were 
plastered up. A clothes-press filled the space 
between the chimney jamb and the wall, and the 
mat of corn husks and leaves on which the children 
had slept in the corner gave way to the comfortable 
luxuriance of a feather bed. She washed the two 
orphans, and fitted them out in clothes taken from 
the stores of her own. The work of renovation in 
and around the cabin continued until even Thomas 
Lincoln himself, under the general stimulus of the 
new wife's presence, caught the inspiration, and 
developed signs of intense activity. The advent of 
Sarah Bush was certainly a red-letter day for the 
Lincolns. She was not only industrious and thrifty, 
but gentle and affectionate ; and her newly adopted 
children for the first time, perhaps, realized the be- 
nign influence of a mother's love. Of young Abe 
she was especially fond, and we have her testimony 
that her kindness and care for him were warmly and 
bountifully returned. Her granddaughter furnished 
me * in after years with this description of her : 

" My grandmother is a very tall woman, straight 
as an Indian, of fair complexion, and was, when I 
first remember her, very handsome, sprightly, talk- 
ative, and proud. She wore her hair curled till gray ; 
is kind-hearted and very charitable, and also very 
industrious." In September, 1865, I visited the old 

Harriet Chapman. MS. 

^#s^ 4^"^^ 

Sarah Bush Lincoln. 

A/Ur J>hoto,i;ra/'h taken in 1S65. 



lady* and spent an entire day with her. She was 
then hving on the farm her stepson had purchased 
and given her, eight miles south of the town of 
Charleston, in Ilhnois. She died on the loth of 
April, 1869. 

The two sets of children in the Lincoln house- 
hold-to their credit be it said-hved together in 
perfect accord. Abe was in his tenth year, and his 
stepmother, aw^ake to the importance of an educa- 
tion, made a way for him to attend school. To her 
he seemed full of promise; and although not so 
quick of comprehension as other boys, yet she 
believed in encouraging his every effort. He had 
had a few weeks of schooling under Riney and 
Hazel in Kentucky, but it is hardly probable that 
he could read ; he certainly could not write. As 
illustrating his moral make-up, I diverge from the 
chronological order of the narrative long enough to 
relate an incident which occurred some years later. 
In the Lincoln family, Matilda Johnston, or 'Tilda,* 

_ * Dunng my interview with this old lady I was much and deeply 
impressed with the sincerity of her affection for her illustrious step- 
son. She declmed to say much in answer to my questions about 
Nancy Hanks, her predecessor in the Lincoln household, but spoke 
ee mgly of the latter's daughter and son. Describing Mr. Lincoln's 

biUer?' ^?;V" ^^''■"^^^' ^''^' ^^^ ^^^^^ -^° '-- -^d -P 
« and L . "' "'"' ^^' '° '"" '"^ President," she sobbed, 
and did not want to see him elected. I was afraid that something 
would happen to him, and when he came down to see me, after he 
was elected President, I still felt, and my heart told me, that some- 
thing would befall him, and that I should never see him again Abe 
and h.s father are in heaven now, I am sure, and I expect soon to go 
there and meet them." 


as her mother called her, was the youngest child. 
After Abe had reached the estate of manhood, she 
was still in her 'teens. It was Abe's habit each 
morning one fall, to leave the house early, his axe 
on his shoulder, to clear a piece of forest which lay 
some distance from home. He frequently carried 
his dinner with him, and remained all day. Several 
times the young and frolicsome 'Tilda sought to 
accompany him, but was each time restrained by 
her mother, who firmly forbade a repetition of the 
attempt. One morning the girl escaped maternal 
vigilance, and slyly followed after the young wood- 
man, who had gone some distance from the house, 
and was already hidden from view behind the dense 
growth of trees and underbrush. Following a deer- 
path, he went singing along, little dreaming of the 
girl in close pursuit. The latter gained on him, 
and when within a few feet, darted forward and 
with a cat-like leap landed squarely on his back. 
With one hand on each shoulder, she planted her 
knee in the middle of his back, and dexterously 
brought the powerful frame of the rail-splitter to 
the ground. It was a trick familiar to every 
schoolboy. Abe, taken by surprise, was unable at 
first to turn around or learn who his assailant was. 
In the fall to the ground, the sharp edge of the axe 
imbedded itself in the young lady's ankle, inflicting 
a wound from which there came a generous effu- 
sion of blood. With sundry pieces of cloth 
torn from Abe's shirt and the young lady's 
dress, the flow of blood was stanched, and the 
wound rudely bound up. The girl's cries having 


lessened somewhat, her tall companion, looking at 
her in blank astonishment, knowing what an in- 
fraction the whole thing was of her mother's oft- 
repeated instructions, asked ; *' ' Tilda, what are 
you going to tell mother about getting hurt ?" 

*^ Tell her I did it with the axe," she sobbed. 
" That will be the truth, won't it ? " To which last 
inquiry Abe manfully responded, 

"Yes, that's the truth, but it's not all the truth. 
Tell the whole truth, 'Tilda, and trust your good 
mother for the rest." 

This incident was, many years afterward, related 
to me by 'Tilda, who was then the mother of a 
devoted and interesting family herself. 

Hazel Dorsey was Abe's first teacher in Indiana. 
He held forth a mile and a half from the Lincoln 
farm. The school-house was built of round logs, 
and was just high enough for a man to stand erect 
under the loft. The floor was of split logs, or 
what were called puncheons. The chimney was 
made of poles and clay ; and the windows were 
made by cutting out parts of two logs, placing 
pieces of split boards a proper distance apart, and 
over the aperture thus formed pasting pieces 
of greased paper to admit light. At school Abe 
evinced ability enough to gain him a prominent 
place in the respect of the teacher and the affec- 
tions of his fellow-scholars.* Elements of leader- 

♦"He always appeared to be very quiet during playtime ; never 
was rude ; seemed to have a liking for solitude ; was the one chosen 
in almost every case to adjust difficulties between boys of his age 



ship in him seem to have manifested themselves 
already. Nathaniel Grigsby — whose brother, Aaron, 
afterwards married Abe's sister, Sarah — attended 
the same school. He certifies to Abe's proficiency 
and worth in glowing terms. 

" He was always at school early," writes Grigsby, 
*' and attended to his studies. He was always at 
the head of his class, and passed us rapidly in his 
studies. He lost no time at home, and when he 
was not at work was at his books. He kept up his 
studies on Sunday, and carried his books with him 
to work, so that he might read when he rested from 
labor." Now and then, the family exchequer run- 
ning low, it would be found necessary for the 
young rail-splitter to stop school, and either work 
with his father on the farm, or render like service 
for the neighbors. These periods of work occurred 
so often and continued so long, that all his school 
days added together would not make a year in the 
aggregate. When he attended school, his sister 
Sarah usually accompanied him. *' Sally was a 
quick-minded young woman," is the testimony of a 
school-mate. ** She was more industrious than Abe, 
in my opinion. I can hear her good-humored 
laugh now. Like her brother, she could greet you 
kindly and put you at ease. She was really an 
intelligent woman." ^ 

and size, and when appealed to, his decision was an end of the 
trouble. He was also rather noted for keeping his clothes clean 
longer than any of the others, and although considered a boy of cour- 
age, had few, if any, difficulties." — E. R. Burba, letter, March 31, 1866. 
*Nat Grigsby, Sept. 12, 1865, MS. 


Abe's love for books, and his determined effort to 
obtain an education in spite of so many obstacles, 
induced the belief in his father's mind, that book- 
learning was absorbing a greater proportion of his 
energy and industry than the demands of the farm. 
The old gentleman had but little faith in the value 
of books or papers,* and hence the frequent drafts 
he made on the son to aid in the drudgery of daily 
toil. He undertook to teach him his own trade f — 
he was a carpenter and joiner — but Abe manifested 
such a striking want of interest that the effort to 
make a carpenter of him was soon abandoned. 

At Dorsey's school Abe was ten years old ; at 
the next one, Andrew Crawford's, he was about 
fourteen ; and at Swaney's he was in his seven- 
teenth year. The last school required a walk of 
over four miles, and on account of the distance 
his attendance was not only irregular but brief. 
Schoolmaster Crawford introduced a new feature 
in his school, and we can imagine its effect on 
his pupils, whose training had been limited to the 

* " I induced my husband to permit Abe to read and study at 
home as well as at school. At first he was not easily reconciled to 
it, but finally he too seemed willing to encourage him to a certain 
extent. Abe was a dutiful son to me always, and we took particular 
care when he was reading not to disturb him — would let him read on 
and on till he quit of his own accord." — Mrs. Thomas Lincoln, Sept. 
8, 1865. 

t A little walnut cabinet, two feet high, and containing two rows of 
neat drawers, now in the possession of Captain J. \V. Wartmann, 
clerk of the United States Court in Evansville, Ind., is carefully pre- 
served as a specimen of the joint work of Lincoln and his father at 
this time. 


social requirements of the backwoods settlement. 
It was instruction in manners. One scholar was 
required to go outside, and re-enter the room as a 
lady or gentleman would enter a drawing-room or 
parlor. Another scholar would receive the first 
party at the door, and escort him or her about the 
room, making polite introductions to each person in 
the room. How the gaunt and clumsy Abe went 
through this performance we shall probably never 
know. If his awkward movements gave rise to any 
amusement, his school-mates never revealed it. 

The books used at school were Webster's Spell- 
ing Book and the American Speller. All the 
scholars learned to cipher, and afterwards used 
Pike's Arithmetic. Mr. Lincoln told me in later 
years that Murray's English Reader was the best 
school-book ever put into the hands of an Amer- 
ican youth. I conclude, therefore, he must have 
used that also. At Crawford's school Abe was 
credited with the authorship of several literary 
efforts — short dissertations in which he strove to 
correct some time-honored and wanton sport of the 
schoolboy. While in Indiana I met several persons 
who recalled a commendable and somewhat preten- 
tious protest he wrote against cruelty to animals. 
The wholesome effects of a temperate life and the 
horrors of war were also subjects which claimed the 
services of his pen then, as they in later years 
demanded the devoted attention of his mind and 

He was now over six feet high and was growing 
at a tremendous rate, for he added two inches more 


before the close of his seventeenth year, thus reach- 
ing the Hmit of his stature. He weighed in the 
region of a hundred and sixty pounds ; was wiry, 
vigorous, and strong. His feet and hands were 
large, arms and legs long and in striking contrast 
with his slender trunk and small head. *' His skin 
was shrivelled and yellow," declares one of the 
girls* who attended Crawford's school. ''His 
shoes, when he had any, were low. He wore buck- 
skin breeches, linsey-woolsey shirt, and a cap made 
of the skin of a squirrel or coon. His breeches 
were baggy and lacked by several inches meeting 
the tops of his shoes, thereby exposing his shin- 
bone, sharp, blue, and narrow." In one branch of 
school learning he was a great success ; that was 
spelling. We are indebted to Kate Roby, a pretty 
miss of fifteen, for an incident which illustrates 
alike his proficiency in orthography and his natural 
inclination to help another out of the mire. The 
word "defied " had been given out by Schoolmaster 
Crawford, but had been misspelled several times 
when it came Miss Roby's turn. *'Abe stood on 
the opposite side of the room" (related Miss Roby f 
to me in 1865) "and was watching me. I began 
d-e-f — and then I stopped, hesitating whether to 
proceed with an 'i ' or a ' y.' Looking up I beheld 
Abe, a grin covering his face, and pointing with his 
index finger to his eye. I took the hint, spelled 
the word with an ' i,' and it went through all right." 

*Kate Gentry. 

t Miss Roby afterward married Allen Gentry. 


There was more or less of an attachment between 
Miss Roby and Abe, although the lady took pains 
to assure me that they were never in love. She 
described with self-evident pleasure, however, the 
delightful experience of an evening's stroll down to 
the river with him, where they were wont to sit on 
the bank and watch the moon as it slowly rose over 
the neighboring hills. Dangling their youthful feet 
in the water, they gazed on the pale orb of night, as 
many a fond pair before them had done and will 
continue to do until the end of the world. One 
evening, when thus engaged, their conversation and 
thoughts turned on the movement of the planets. 
" I did not suppose that Abe, who had seen so little 
of the world, would know anything about it, but he 
proved to my satisfaction that the moon did not go 
down at all ; that it only seemed to; that the earth, 
revolving from west to east, carried us under, as it 
were. * We do the sinking,' he explained; Svhile 
to us the moon is comparatively still. The moon's 
sinking is only an illusion.' I at once dubbed him 
a fool, but later developments convinced me that I 
was the fool, not he. He was well acquainted with 
the general laws of astronomy and the movements 
of the heavenly bodies, but where he could have 
learned so much, or how to put it so plainly, I never 
could understand." 

Absalom Roby is authority for the statement 
that even at that early day Abe was a patient 
reader of a Louisville newspaper, which some one 
at Gentryville kindly furnished him. Among the 
books he read were the Bible, '* ^sop's Fables," 



Lines written ky Lincoln on the Leaf of his School-book 

IN HIS Fourteenth 

Preserved by his Step-mother. 

0?-/i;inal in /ossession of J . W. II eik. 



*' Robinson Crusoe," Bunyan's '* Pilgrim's Progress," 
a "History of the United States," and Weems' 
" Life of Washington." A little circumstance at- 
tended the reading of the last-named book, which 
only within recent years found its way into public 
print. The book was borrowed from a close-fisted 
neighbor, Josiah Crawford, and one night, while 
lying on a little shelf near a crack between two logs 
in the Lincoln cabin during a storm, the covers 
were damaged by rain. Crawford — not the school- 
master, but old " Blue Nose," as Abe and others 
called him — assessed the damage to his book at sev- 
enty-five cents, and the unfortunate borrower was 
required to pull fodder for three days at twenty-five 
cents a day in settlement of the account. While at 
school it is doubtful if he was able to own an arith- 
metic. His stepmother was unable to remember 
his ever having owned one. She gave me, how- 
ever, a few leaves from a book made and bound by 
Abe, in which he had entered, in a large, bold hand, 
the tables of weights and measures, and the "sums " 
to be worked out in illustration of each table. 
Where the arithmetic was obtained I could not 
learn. On one of the pages which the old lady 
gave me, and just underneath the table which tells 
how many pints there are in a bushel, the facetious 
young student had scrawled these four lines of 
schoolboy doggerel : 

"Abraham Lincoln, 
His hand and pen, 
He will be good, 
But God knows when." 


On another page were found, in his own hand, a few 
lines which it is also said he composed. Nothing 
indicates that they were borrowed, and I have 
always, therefore, believed that they were original 
with him. Although a little irregular in metre, the 
sentiment would, I think, do credit to an older 

*' Time, what an empty vapor 'tis, 

And days how swift they are : 
Swift as an Indian arrow — 

Fly on like a shooting star. 
The present moment just is here, 

Then slides away in haste, 
That we can never say they're ours, 

But only say they're past." 

His penmanship, after some practice, became so re- 
gular in form that it excited the admiration of other 
and younger boys. One of the latter, Joseph C. 
Richardson, said that "Abe Lincoln was the best 
penman in the neighborhood." At Richardson's 
request he made some copies for practice. During 
my visit to Indiana I met Richardson, who showed 
these two lines, which Abe had prepared for him: 

" Good boys who to their books apply 
Will all be great men by and by." 

To comprehend Mr. Lincoln fully we must know 
in substance not only the facts of his origin, but 
also the manner of his development. It will 
always be a matter of wonder to the American 
people, I have no doubt — as it has been to me — 
that from such restricted and unpromising opportu- 



nities in early life, Mr. Lincoln grew into the great 
man he was. The foundation for his education was 
laid in Indiana and in the little town of New Salem 
in Illinois, and in both places he gave evidence of a 
nature and characteristics that distinguished him 
from every associate and surrounding he had. He 
was not peculiar or eccentric, and yet a shrewd 
observer would have seen that he was decidedly 
unique and original. Although imbued with a 
marked dislike for manual labor, it cannot be truth- 
fully said of him that he was indolent. From a 
mental standpoint he was one of the most ener- 
getic young men of his day. He dwelt altogether 
in the land of thought. His deep meditation and 
abstraction easily induced the belief among his 
horny-handed companions that he was lazy. In 
fact, a neighbor, John Romine, makes that charge. 
" He worked for me," testifies the latter, " but was 
always reading and thinking. I used to get mad at 
him for it. I say he was awfully lazy. He would 
laugh and talk — crack his jokes and tell stories all 
the time ; didn't love work half as much as his pay. 
He said to me one day that his father taught him 
to work, but he never taught him to love it." Ver- 
ily there was but one Abraham Lincoln ! 

His chief delight during the day, if unmolested, 
was to lie down under the shade of some inviting 
tree to read and study. At night, lying on his 
stomach in front of the open fireplace, with a piece 
of charcoal he would cipher on a broad wooden 
shovel. When the latter was covered over on both 
sides he would take his father's drawing knife or 



plane and shave it off clean, ready for a fresh supply 
of inscriptions the next day. He often moved about 
the cabin with a piece of chalk, writing and cipher- 
ing on boards and the flat sides of hewn logs. When 
every bare wooden surface had been filled with his 
letters and ciphers he would erase them and begin 
anew. Thus it was always; and the boy whom 
dull old Thomas Lincoln and rustic John Romine 
conceived to be lazy was in reality the most tireless 
worker in all the region around Gentryville. His step- 
mother told me he devoured everything in the book 
line within his reach. If in his reading he came 
across anything that pleased his fancy, he entered 
it down in a copy-book — a sort of repository, in which 
he was wont to store everything worthy of preserva- 
tion. " Frequently," related his stepmother, " he 
had no paper to write his pieces down on. Then he 
would put them with chalk on a board or plank, 
sometimes only making a few signs of what he 
intended to write. When he got paper he would 
copy them, always bringing them to me and reading 
them. He would ask my opinion of what he had 
read, and often explained things to me in his plain 
and simple language." How he contrived at the 
age of fourteen to absorb information is thus told 
by John Hanks: ''When Abe and I returned to 
the house from work he would go to the cupboard, 
snatch a piece of corn bread, sit down, take a book, 
cock his legs up as high as his head, and read. We 
grubbed, plowed, mowed, and worked together bare- 
footed in the field. Whenever Abe had a chance 
in the field while at work, or at the house, he 


would stop and read." He kept the Bible and 
"yEsop's Fables " always within reach, and read them 
over and over again. These two volumes furnished 
him with the many figures of speech and parables 
which he used with such happy effect in his later 
and public utterances. 

Amid such restricted and unromantic environ- 
ments the boy developed into the man. The intel- 
lectual fire burned slowly, but with a steady and 
intense glow. Although denied the requisite train- 
ing of the school-room, he was none the less com- 
petent to cope with those who had undergone that 
discipline. No one had a more retentive memory. 
If he read or heard a good thing it never escaped 
him. His powers of concentration were intense, 
and in the ability through analysis to strip bare a 
proposition he was unexcelled. His thoughtful and 
investigating mind dug down after ideas, and never 
stopped till bottom facts were reached. With such 
a mental equipment the day was destined to come 
when the world would need the services of his intel- 
lect and heart. That he was equal to the great 
task when the demand came is but another striking 
proof of the grandeur of his character. 


The first law book Lincoln ever read was " The 
Statutes of Indiana." He obtained the volume from 
his friend David Turnham, who testifies that he 
fairly devoured the book in his eager efforts to 
abstract the store of knowledge that lay between the 
lids. No doubt, as Turnham insists, the study of 
the statutes at this early day led Abe to think of 
the law as his calling in maturer years. At any rate 
he now began to evince no little zeal in the matter 
of public speaking — in compliance with the old 
notion, no doubt, that a lawyer can never succeed 
unless he has the elements of the orator or advocate 
in his construction — and even when at work in the 
field he could not resist the temptation to mount 
the nearest stump and practise on his fellow labor- 
ers. The latter would flock around him, and active 
operations would cease whenever he began. A 
cluster of tall and stately trees often made him a 
most dignified and appeciative audience during the 
delivery of these maiden forensic efforts. He was 
old enough to attend musters, log-rollings, and horse- 
races, and was rapidly becoming a favored as well as 
favorite character. '* The first time I ever remem- 
ber of seeing Abe Lincoln," is the testimony of one 



Of his neighbors,* " was when I was a small boy and 
had gone with my father to attend some kind of an 

tT'xS^J °" "^'■^'^'°"' J^-- Larkins la 
tnere. Larkms was a great hand to bra<T on anv 

thmg he owned. This time it was his horse hJ 

stepped up before Abe, who was in the crowd a"d 


" 'I have got the best horse in the country ' " he 
shouted to his young listener. •- < I ran him"^ three 

a ;::;::r^"'"^ "'■•""--"'' '--^etch^ 

With all his peaceful propensities Abe was not 
averse to a contest of strength, either forsport or i, 
settlement-as in one memorable case-of griev 
ances. Personal encounters were of frequent occu " 
rence :n Gentryville in those days, and ^he pres .^e 
of havmg thrashed an opponent gave the victS 
marked socal distinction. Green B. Taylor, w th 
whom Abe worked the greater part of one ivinS 
on a farni, furnished me with an account of the 
noted fight between John Johnston, Abe's step 
brother and William Grigsby, in which stir^'" 
drama Abe h.mself played an important role befor^ 

second for Johnston, and William Whitten officiated 
ma s.m,Iar capacity for Grigsby. - They had a ter- 
r^fight, ' relates Taylor, "and it soon became 

•John W. Lamar, M.S. letter, June 29, 1S66. 


apparent that Grigsby was too much for Lincoln's 
man, Johnston. After they had fought a long time 
without interference, it having been agreed not to 
break the ring, Abe burst through, caught Grigsby, 
threw him off and some feet away. There he stood, 
proud as Lucifer, and swinging a bottle of liquor 
over his head swore he was ' the big buck of the 
lick.' ^ If any one doubts it,' he shouted, * he has 
only to come on and whet his horns.' " A general 
engagement followed this challenge, but at the end 
of hostilities the field was cleared and the wounded 
retired amid the exultant shouts of their victors. 

Much of the latter end of Abe's boyhood would 
have been lost in the midst of tradition but for the 
store of information and recollections I was fortu- 
nate enough to secure from an interesting old lady 
whom I met in Indiana in 1865. She was the wife of 
Josiah Crawford "^ — '' Blue Nose," as Abe had named 
him — and possessed rare accomplishments for a 
woman reared in the backwoods of Indiana. She 
was not only impressed with Abe's early efforts, but 
expressed great admiration for his sister Sarah, 
whom she often had with her at her own hospitable 
home and whom she described as a modest, indus- 

* In one of her conversations with me Mrs. Crawford told me of 
the exhibitions with which at school they often entertained the few 
persons who attended the closing day. Sometimes, in warm 
weather, the scholars made a platform of clean boards covered over- 
head with green boughs. Generally, however, these exhibitions, took 
place in the school-room. The exercises consisted of the varieties 
offered at this day at the average seminary or school — declamations 
and dialogues or debates. The declamations were obtained princi- 
pally from a book called " The Kentucky Preceptor," which volume 


trious, and sensible sister of a humorous and equally 
sensible brother. From Mrs. Crawford I obtained 
the few specimens of Abe's early literary efforts 
and much of the matter that follows in this chapter. 
The introduction here of the literary feature as 
affording us a glimpse of Lincoln's boyhood days 
may to a certain extent grate harshly on over-re- 
fined ears ; but still no apology is necessary, for, as 
intimated at the outset, I intend to keep close to 
Lincoln all the way through. Some writers would 
probably omit these songs and backwoods recitals 
as savoring too strongly of the Bacchanalian nature, 
but that would be a narrow view to take of history. 
If we expect to know Lincoln thoroughly we must 
be prepared to take him as he really was. 

•In 1826 Abe's sister Sarah was married to Aaron 
Grigsby, and at the wedding the Lincoln family 
sang a song composed in honor of the event by 
Abe himself. It is a tiresome doggerel and full 
of painful rhymes. I reproduce it here from the 
manuscript furnished me by Mrs. Crawford. The 
author and composer called it ** Adam and Eve's 
Wedding Song." 

Mrs. Crawford gave me as a souvenir of my visit. Lincoln had often 
used it himself, she said. The questions for discussion were char- 
acteristic of the day and age. The relative merits of the " 15ee and 
the Ant," the difference in strength between " Wind and Water," 
taxed their knowledge of physical phenomena ; and the all-important 
question " Which has the most right to complain, the Indian or the 
Negro?" called out their conceptions of a great moral or national 
wrong. In the discussioii of all these grave subjects Lincoln took a 
deep interest. 


" When Adam was created 
He dwelt in Eden's shade, 
As Moses has recorded, 
And soon a bride was made. 

Ten thousand times ten thousand 

Of creatures swarmed around 
Before a bride was formed. 

And yet no mate was found. 

The Lord then was not willing 

That man should be alone, 
But caused a sleep upon him, 

And from him took a bone. 

And closed the flesh instead thereof, 

And then he took the same 
And of it made a woman, 

And brought her to the man. 

Then Adam he rejoiced 

To see his loving bride 
A part of his own body. 

The product of his side. 

The woman was not taken 

From Adam's feet we see, 
So he must not abuse her, 
The meaning seems to be. 

The woman was not taken 

From Adam's head, we know, 
To show she must not rule him — 

'Tis evidently so. 

The woman she was taken 

From under Adam's arm, 
So she must be protected 

From injuries and harm." 

Poor Sarah, at whose wedding this song was sung, 
never hved to see the glory nor share in the honor 
that afterwards fell to the lot of her tall and angular 
brother. Within two years after her marriage she 
died in childbirth. 


Although devoid of any natural ability as a singer 
Abe nevertheless made many efforts and had great 
appreciation of certain songs. In after years he 
told me he doubted if he really knew what the har- 
mony of sound was. The songs in vogue then were 
principally of the sacred order. They were from 
Watts' and Dupuy's hymn-books. David Turnham 
furnished me with a list, marking as especial favor- 
ites the following : " Am I a Soldier of the Cross " ; 
" How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours " ; " There 
is a Fountain Filled with Blood," and, '' Alas, and 
did my Saviour Bleed?" One song pleased Abe 
not a little. '* I used to sing it for old Thomas 
Lincoln," relates Turnham, " at Abe's request. The 
old gentleman liked it and made me sing it often. 
I can only remember one couplet : 

" ' There was a Romish lady 

She was brought up in Popery.' " 

Dennis Hanks insists that Abe used to try his 
hand and voice at '' Poor old Ned," but never with 
any degree of success. " Rich, racy verses " were 
sung by the big boys in the country villages of that 
day with as keen a relish as they are to-day. There 
is no reason and less evidence for the belief that 
Abe did not partake of this forbidden fruit along 
with other boys of the same age and condition in 
life. Among what Dennis called '' field songs" are 
a few lines from this one: 

" The turbaned Turk that scorns the world 
And struts about with his whiskers curled, 
For no other man but himself to see." 


Of another ballad we have this couplet : 

" Hail Columbia, happy land, 

If you aint drunk then I'll be damned." 

We can imagine the merry Dennis, hilarious with 
the exhilaration of deep potations at the village 
grocery, singing this " field song " as he and Abe 
wended their way homeward. A stanza from a 
campaign song which Abe was in the habit of ren- 
dering, according to Mrs. Crawford, attests his ear- 
liest political predilections : 

*' Let auld acquaintance be forgot 
And never brought to mind, 
May Jackson be our president, 
And Adams left behind." 

A mournful and distressing ballad, '' John Ander- 
son's Lamentation," as rendered by Abe, was writ- 
ten out for me by Mrs. Crawford, but the first lines, 

*' Oh, sinners, poor sinners, take warning by me, 
The fruits of transgression behold now and see," 

will suffice to indicate how mournful the rest of it 

The centre of wit and wisdom in the village of 
Gentryville was at the store. This place was in 
charge of one Jones, who soon after embarking in 
business seemed to take quite a fancy to Abe. He 
took the only newspaper — sent from Louisville — 
and at his place of business gathered Abe, Dennis 
Hanks, Baldwin the blacksmith, and other kindred 
spirits to discuss such topics as are the exclusive 
property of the store lounger. Abe's original and 


ridiculous stories not only amused the crowd, but 
the display of his unique faculties made him many 
friends. One who saw him at this time says : 

" Lincoln would frequently make political 
speeches to the boys ; he was always calm, logical, 
and clear. His jokes and stories were so odd, orig- 
inal, and witty all the people in town would gather 
around him. He would keep them till midnight. 
Abe was a good talker, a good reasoner, and a kind 
of newsboy." He attended all the trials before the 
" squire," as that important functionary was called, 
and frequently wandered off to Boonville, a town on 
the river, distant fifteen miles, and the county seat 
of Warrick County, to hear and see how the courts 
were conducted there. On one occasion, at the 
latter place, he remained during the trial of a mur- 
derer and attentively absorbed the proceedings. A 
lawyer named Breckenridge represented the defense, 
and his speech so pleased and thrilled his young 
listener that the latter could not refrain from ap- 
proaching the eloquent advocate at the close of his 
address and congratulating him on his signal suc- 
cess. How Breckenridge accepted the felicitations 
of the awkward, hapless youth we shall probably 
never know. The story is told that during Lin- 
coln's term as President, he was favored one day at 
the White House with a visit by this same Brecken- 
ridge, then a resident of Texas, who had called to 
pay his respects. In a conversation about early 
days in Indiana, the President, recalling Brecken- 
ridge's argument in the murder trial, remarked, '' If 
I could, as I then thought, have made as crood a 


speech as that, my soul would have been satisfied ; 
for it was up to that time the best speech I had 
ever heard. 

No feature of his backwoods life pleased Abe so 
well as going to mill. It released him from a day's 
work in the woods, besides affording him a much 
desired opportunity to watch the movement of the 
mill's primitive and cumbersome machinery. It 
was on many of these trips that David Turnham 
accompanied him. In later years Mr. Lincoln 
related the following reminiscence of his experience 
as a miller in Indiana : One day, taking a bag of 
corn, he mounted the old flea-bitten gray mare and 
rode leisurely to Gordon's mill. Arriving somewhat 
late, his turn did not come till almost sundown. In 
obedience to the custom requiring each man to 
furnish his own power he hitched the old mare to 
the arm, and as the animal moved round, the 
machinery responded with equal speed. Abe was 
mounted on the arm, and at frequent intervals made 
use of his whip to urge the animal on to better 
speed. With a careless *' Get up, you old hussy," he 
applied the lash at each revolution of the arm. In 
the midst of the exclamation, or just as half of it 
had escaped through his teeth, the old jade, resent- 
ing the continued use of the goad, elevated her 
shoeless hoof and striking the young engineer in 
the forehead, sent him sprawling to the earth. 
Miller Gordon hurried in, picked up the bleeding, 
senseless boy, whom he took for dead, and at once 
sent for his father. Old Thomas Lincoln came — 
came as soon as embodied listlessness could move — • 


loaded the lifeless boy in a wagon and drove 
home. Abe lay unconscious all night, but towards 
break of day the attendants noticed signs of return- 
ing consciousness. The blood beginning to flow 
normally, his tongue struggled to loosen itself, his 
frame jerked for an instant, and he awoke, blurting 
out the words "you old hussy/' or the latter half of 
the sentence interrupted by the mare's heel at the 

Mr. Lincoln considered this one of the remarka- 
ble incidents of his life. He often referred to it, 
and we had many discussions in our law office over 
the psychological phenomena involved in the opera- 
tion. Without expressing my own views I may say 
that his idea was that the latter half of the expres- 
sion," Get up, you old hussy," was cut off by a sus- 
pension of the normal flow of his mental energy, 
and that as soon as life's forces returned he uncon- 
sciously ended the sentence ; or, as he in a plainer 
figure put it : ''Just before I struck the old mare 
my will through the mind had set the muscles of 
my tongue to utter the expression, and when her 
heels came in contact with my head the whole thing 
stopped half-cocked, as it were, and was only fired 
off when mental energy or force returned." 

By the time he had reached his seventeenth year 
he had attained the physical proportions of a full- 
grown man. He was employed to assist James 
Taylor in the management of a ferry-boat across 
the Ohio river near the mouth of Anderson's creek, 
but was not allowed a man's wages for the work. 
He received thirty-seven cents a day for what he 


afterwards told me was the roughest work a young 
man could be made to do. In the midst of what- 
ever work he was engaged on he still found time 
to utilize his pen. He prepared a composition on 
the American Government, calling attention to 
the necessity of preserving the Constitution and 
perpetuating the Union, which with characteristic 
modesty he turned over to his friend and patron, 
William Woods, for safe-keeping and perusal. 
Through the instrumentality of Woods it attracted 
the attention of many persons, among them one 
Pitcher,"^ a lawyer at Rockport, who with faintly 
concealed enthusiasm declared '' the world couldn't 
beat it." An article on Temperance was shown 
under similar circumstance to Aaron Farmer, a 
Baptist preacher of local renown, and by him fur- 
nished to an Ohio newspaper for publication. The 
thing, however, which gave him such prominence — 
a prominence too which could have been attained in 
no other way — was his remarkable physical strength, 
for he was becoming not only one of the longest. 

*This gentleman, Judge John Pitcher, ninety-three years old, is 
still living in Mount Vernon, Indiana. He says that young Lincoln 
often called at his office and borrowed books to read at home during 
leisure hours. On one occasion he expressed a desire to study law 
with Pitcher, but explained that his parents were so poor that he 
could not be spared from the farm on which they lived. " He related 
tome in my office one day," says Pitcher, " an account of his payment 
to Crawford of the damage done to the latter's book — Weems' * Life 
of Washington.' Lincoln said, " You see, I am tall and long-armed, 
and I went to work in earnest. At the end of the two days there 
was not a corn-blade left on a stalk in the field. I wanted to pay full 
damage for all the wetting the book got, and I made a clean sweep." 


but one of the strongest men around Gentryville. 
He enjoyed the brief distinction his exhibitions of 
strength gave him more than the admiration of his 
friends for his literary or forensic efforts. Some 
of the feats attributed to him almost surpass belief. 
One witness declares he was equal to three men, 
having on a certain occasion carried a load of six 
hundred pounds At another time he walked away 
with a pair of logs which three robust men were 
skeptical of their ability to carry. " He could 
strike with a maul a heavier blow — could sink an 
axe deeper into wood than any man I ever saw," is 
the testimony of another witness. 

After he had passed his nineteenth year and was 
nearing his majority he began to chafe and grow 
restless under the restraints of home rule. Seeing 
no prospect of betterment in his condition, so long 
as his fortune was interwoven with that of his father, 
he at last endeavored to strike out into the broad 
world for himself. Having great faith in the judg- 
ment and influence of his fast friend Wood, he 
solicited from him a recommendation to the officers 
of some one of the boats plying up and down the 
river, hoping thereby to obtain employment more 
congenial than the dull, fatiguing work of the farm. 
To this project the judicious Wood was much 
opposed, and therefore suggested to the would-be 
boatman the moral duty that rested on him to 
remain with his father till the law released him from 
that obligation. With deep regret he retraced his 
steps to the paternal mansion, seriously determined 



not to evade the claim from which in a few weary- 
months he would be finally released. Meanwhile 
occurred his first opportunity to see the world. In 
March, 1828, James Gentry, for whom he had been 
at work, had fitted out a boat with a stock of grai.n 
and meat for a trading expedition to New Orleans, 
and placed his son Allen in charge of the cargo for 
the voyage. Abe's desire to make a river trip was 
at last satisfied, and he accompanied the proprietor's 
son, serving as ''bow hand." His pay was eight 
dollars a month and board. In due course of time 
the navigators returned from their expedition with 
the evidence of profitable results to gladden the 
heart of the owner. The only occurrence of interest 
they could relate of the voyage was the encounter 
with a party of marauding negroes at the plantation 
of Madame Duchesne, a few miles below Baton 
Rouge. Abe and Gentry, having tied up for the 
night, were fast asleep on their boat when aroused 
by the arrival of a crowd of negroes bent on 
plunder. They set to work with clubs, and not 
only drove off the intruders, but pursued them 
inland, then hastily returning to their quarters 
they cut loose their craft and floated down-stream 
till daylight. 

Before passing on further it may not be amiss to 
glance for a moment at the social side of life as it 
existed in Gentryville in Abe's day. " We thought 
nothing," said an old lady whom I interviewed 
when in Indiana, "■ of going eight or ten miles to 
church. The ladies did not stop for the want of a 
shawl, cloak, or riding-dress in winter time, but 


would put on their husbands' old overcoats and 
wrap up their little ones and take one or two of 
them on their beasts. Their husbands would walk, 
and thus they would go to church, frequently re- 
maining till the second day before they returned 

The old men starting from the fields and out of 
the woods would carry their guns on their shoulders 
and go also. They dressed in deer-skin pants, moc- 
casins, and coarse hunting shirts — the latter usually 
fastened with a rope or leather strap. Arriving at 
the house where services were to be held they 
would recite to each other thrilling; stories of their 
hunting exploits, and smoke their pipes with the 
old ladies. They were treated, and treated each 
other, with the utmost kindness. A bottle of liquor, 
a pitcher of water, sugar, and glasses were set out 
for them ; also a basket of apples or turnips, with, 
now and then, a pie or cakes. Thus they regaled 
themselves till the preacher found himself in a 
condition to begin. The latter, having also partaken 
freely of the refreshments provided, would " take his 
stand, draw his coat, open his shirt collar, read his 
text, and preach and pound till the sweat, produced 
alike by his exertions and the exhilarating effects 
of the toddy, rolled from his face in great drops. 
Shaking hands and singing ended the service." 

The houses were scattered far apart, but the 
people travelled great distances to participate in 
the frolic and coarse fun of a log-rolling and some- 
times a wedding. Unless in mid-winter the young 
ladies carried their shoes in their hands, and only 


put them on when the scene of the festivities was 
reached. The ladies of maturer years drank whiskey 
toddy, while the men took the whiskey straight. 
They all danced merrily, many of them barefooted, 
to the tune of a cracked fiddle the night through. 
We can imagine the gleeful and more hilarious 
swaggering home at daybreak to the tune of Den- 
nis Hanks' festive lines : 

" Hail Columbia, happy land, 
If you ain't drunk then I'll be damned." 

Although gay, prosperous, and light-hearted, 
these people were brimming over with superstition. 
It was at once their food and drink. They believed 
in the baneful influence of witches, pinned their 
faith to the curative power of wizards in dealing 
with sick animals, and shot the image of a witch 
with a silver ball to break the spell she was supposed 
to have over human beings. They followed with 
religious minuteness the directions of the water- 
wizard, with his magic divining rod, and the faith 
doctor who wrought miraculous cures by strange 
sounds and signals to some mysterious agency. 
The flight of a bird in at the window, the breath of 
a horse on a child's head, the crossing by a dog of a 
hunter's path, all betokened evil luck in store for 
some one. The moon exercised greater influence 
on the actions of the people and the growth of 
vegetation than the sun and all the planetary sys- 
tem combined. Fence rails could only be cut in the 
light of the moon, and potatoes planted in the dark 
of the moon. Trees and plants which bore their 


fruit above ground could be planted when the moon 
shone full. Soap could only be made in the light 
of the moon, and it must only be stirred in one way 
and by one person. They had the horror of Friday 
which with many exists to this day. Nothing was 
to be begun on that unlucky day, for if the rule 
were violated an endless train of disasters was sure 
to follow. 

Surrounded by people who believed in these 
things, Lincoln grew to manhood. With them he 
walked, talked, and labored, and from them he also 
absorbed whatever of superstition showed itself in 
him thereafter. His early Baptist training made 
him a fatalist up to the day of his death, and, 
listening in boyish wonder to the legends of some 
toothless old dame led him to believe in the sig- 
nificance of dreams and visions. His surroundings 
helped to create that unique character which in the 
eyes of a great portion of the American people was 
only less curious and amusing than it was august 
and noble. 

The winter of 1829 was marked by another visi- 
tation of that dreaded disease, ** the milk-sick." It 
was making the usual ravages among the cattle. 
Human victims were falling before it every day, 
and it caused the usual stampede in southern Indi- 
ana. Dennis Hanks, discouraged by the prospect 
and grieving over the loss of his stock, proposed a 
move further westward. Returning emigrants had 
brought encouraging news of the newly developed 
state of Illinois. Vast stretches of rich alluvial 
lands were to be had there on the easiest of terms. 


Besides this, Indiana no longer afforded any 
inducements to the poor man. The proposition 
of Dennis met with the general assent of the Lin- 
coln family, and especially suited the roving and 
migratory spirit of Thomas Lincoln. He had been 
induced to leave Kentucky for the hills of Indiana 
by the same rosy and alluring reports. He had 
moved four times since his marriage and in point 
of worldly goods was no better off than when he 
started in life. His land groaned under the weight 
of a long neglected incumbrance and, like many of 
his neighbors, he was ready for another change. 
Having disposed of his land to James Gentry, and 
his grain and stock to young David Turnham, he 
loaded his household effects into a wagon drawn by 
two yoke of oxen, and in March, 1830, started for 
Illinois. The two daughters of Mrs. Lincoln had 
meanwhile married Dennis Hanks and Levi Hall, 
and with these additions the party numbered thir- 
teen in all. Abe had just passed his twenty-first 

The journey was a long and tedious one ; the 
streams were swollen and the roads were muddy 
almost to the point of impassability. The rude, 
heavy wagon, with its primitive wheels, creaked and 
groaned as it crawled through the woods and now 
and then stalled in the mud. Many were the delays, 
but none ever disturbed the equanimity of its pas- 
sengers. They were cheerful in the face of all 
adversity, hopeful, and some of them determined; 
but none of them more so than the tall, ungainly 
youth in buckskin breeches and coon-skin cap who 


wielded the gad and urged the patient oxen for- 
ward. As these humble emigrants entered the new 
State little did the curious people in the towns 
through which they passed dream that the obscure 
and penniless driver who yelled his commands 
to the oxen would yet become Chief Magistrate 
of the greatest nation of modern times."* 

* Mr. Lincoln once described this journey to me. He said the 
ground had not yet yielded up the frosts of winter ; that during the 
day the roads would thaw out on the surface and at night freeze over 
again, thus making travelling, especially with oxen, painfully slow 
and tiresome. There were, of course, no bridges, and the party 
were consequently driven to ford the streams, unless by a circuitous 
route they could avoid them. In the early part of the day the latter 
were also frozen slightly, and the oxen would break through a square 
yard of thin ice at every step. Among other things which the party 
brought with them was a pet dog, which trotted along after the 
wagon. One day the little fellow fell behind and failed to catch up 
till after they had crossed the stream. Missing him they looked 
back, and there, on the opposite bank, he stood, whining and jump- 
ing about in great distress. The water was running over the broken 
edges of the ice, and the poor animal was afraid to cross. It would 
not pay to turn th^ oxen and wagon back and ford the stream again 
in order to recover a dog, and so the majority, in their anxiety to 
move forward, decided to go on without him. " But I could not en- 
dure the idea of abandoning even a dog," related Lincoln. " Pull- 
ing off shoes and socks I waded across the stream and triumphantly 
returned with the shivering animal under my arm. His frantic leaps 
of joy and other evidences of a dog's gratitude amply repaid me for 
all the exposure I had undergone." 


After a fortnight of rough and fatiguing travel 
the colony of Indiana emigrants reached a point in 
Illinois five miles north-west of the town of Deca- 
tur in Macon county. John Hanks, son of that 
Joseph Hanks in whose shop at Elizabethtown 
Thomas Lincoln had learned what he knew of the 
carpenter's art, met and sheltered them until they 
were safely housed on a piece of land which he had 
selected for them five miles further westward. He 
had preceded them over a year, and had in the 
meantime hewed out a few timbers to be used in 
the construction of their cabin. The place he had 
selected was on a bluff overlooking the Sangamon 
river, — for these early settlers must always be in 
sight of a running stream, — well supplied with tim- 
ber. It was a charming and picturesque site, and 
all hands set resolutely to work to prepare the new 
abode. One felled the trees ; one hewed the tim- 
bers for the cabin ; while another cleared the ground 
of its accumulated growth of underbrush. All was 
bustle and activity. Even old Thomas Lincoln, 
infused with the spirit of the hour, was spurred to 
unwonted exertion. What part of the work fell 
to his lot our only chronicler, John Hanks, fails to 
note ; but it is conjectured from the old gentleman's 



experience in the art of building that his services 
corresponded to those of the more modern super- 
vising architect. With the aid of the oxen and a 
plow John and Abe broke up fifteen acres of sod, 
and ''Abe and myself," observes Hanks in a mat- 
ter-of-fact way, ** split rails enough to fence the 
place in." As they swung their axes, or with 
wedge and maul split out the rails, how strange to 
them the thought would have seemed that those 
self-same rails were destined to make one of them 
immortal. If such a vision flashed before the mind 
of either he made no sign of it, but each kept stead- 
ily on in his simple, unromantic task. 

Abe had now attained his majority and began to 
throw from his shoulders the vexations of parental 
restraint. He had done his duty to his father, and 
felt able to begin life on his own account. As he 
steps out into the broad and inviting world we take 
him up for consideration as a man. At the same 
time we dispense with further notice of his father, 
Thomas Lincoln. In the son are we alone inter- 
ested. The remaining years of his life marked no 
change in the old gentleman's nature. He still lis- 
tened to the glowing descriptions of prosperity in 
the adjoining counties, and before his death moved 
three times in search of better times and a healthy 
location. In 1851 we find him living on forty acres 
of land on Goose Nest prairie, in Coles county, Illi- 
nois. The land bore the usual incumbrance — a 
mortgage for two hundred dollars, which his son 
afterwards paid. On the 17th of January, after 
suffering for many weeks from a disorder of the kid- 

62 THR ^-^^^^ OF LINCOLN. 

neys, he passed away at the ripe old age — as his son 
tells us — of *' seventy-three years and eleven days." 

For a long time after beginning life on his own 
account Abe remained in sight of the parental 
abode. He worked at odd jobs in the neighbor- 
hood, or wherever the demand for his services called 
him. As late as 1831 he was still in the same parts, 
and John Hanks is authority for the statement that 
he *' made three thousand rails for Major Warnick " 
walking daily three miles to his work. During the 
intervals of leisure he read the few books obtain- 
able, and continued the practice of extemporaneous 
speaking to the usual audience of undemonstrative 
stumps and voiceless trees. His first attempt at 
public speaking after landing in Illinois is thus 
described to me by John Hanks, whose language I 
incorporate : '' After Abe got to Decatur, or rather 
to Macon county, a man by the name of Posey 
came into our neighborhood and made a speech. 
It was a bad one, and I said Abe could beat it. I 
turned down a box and Abe made his speech. The 
other man was a candidate — Abe wasn't. Abe beat 
him to death, his subject being the navigation of 
the Sangamon river. The man, after Abe's speech 
was through, took him aside and asked him where 
he had learned so much and how he could do so 
well. Abe replied, stating his manner and method 
of reading, and what he had read. The man encour- 
aged him to persevere." 

For the first time we are now favored with the 
appearance on the scene of a very important per- 
sonage—one destined to exert no little influence 


in shaping Lincoln's fortunes. It is Denton Offut, a 
brisk and venturesome business man, whose opera- 
tions extended up and down the Sangamon river 
for many miles. Having heard glowing reports of 
John Hanks' successful experience as a boatman in 
Kentucky he had come down the river to engage the 
latter's services to take a boat-load of stock and 
provisions to New Orleans. " He wanted me to go 
badly," observes Hanks, *' but I waited awhile be- 
fore answering. I hunted up Abe, and I introduced 
him and John Johnston, his step-brother, to Offut. 
After some talk we at last made an engagement 
with Offut at fifty cents a day and sixty dollars to 
make the trip to New Orleans. Abe and I came 
down the Sangamon river in a canoe in March, 1831 ; 
landed at what is now called Jamestown, five 
miles east of Springfield, then known as Judy's 
Ferry." Here Johnston joined them, and, leaving 
their canoe in charge of one Uriah Mann, they 
walked to Springfield, where after some inquiry 
they found the genial and enterprising Offut regal- 
ing himself with the good cheer dispensed at '* The 
Buckhorn " inn. This hostelry, kept by Andrew 
Elliot, was the leading place of its kind in the then 
unpretentious village of Springfield. The figure of 
a buck's head painted on a sign swinging in front of 
the house gave rise to its name. Offut had agreed 
with Hanks to have a boat ready for him and his 
two companions at the mouth of Spring creek on 
their arrival, but too many deep potations with the 
new-comers who daily thronged about the " Buck- 
horn " had interfered with the execution of his 


plans, and the boat still renfiained in the womb of 
the future. Offut met the three expectant naviga- 
tors on their arrival, and deep were his regrets over 
his failure to provide the boat. The interview 
resulted in the trio engaging to make the boat 
themselves. From what was known as ''Congress 
land " they obtained an abundance of timber, and by 
the aid of the machinery at Kirkpatrick's mill they 
soon had the requisite material for their vessel. 
While the work of construction was going on a 
shanty was built in which they were lodged. Lin- 
coln was elected cook, a distinction he never under- 
estimated for a moment. Within four weeks the 
boat was ready to launch. Offut was sent for, and 
was present when she slid into the water. It was 
the occasion of much political chat and buncombe, 
in which the Whig party and Jackson alike were, 
strangely enough, lauded to the skies. It is difficult 
to account for the unanimous approval of such 
strikingly antagonistic ideas, unless it be admitted 
that Offut must have brought with him some sub- 
stantial reminder of the hospitality on draught at 
the " Buckhorn " inn. Many disputes arose, we are 
told, in which Lincoln took part and found a good 
field for practice and debate. 

A travelling juggler halted long enough in San- 
gamontown, where the boat was launched, to give 
an exhibition of his art and dexterity in the loft of 
Jacob Carman's house. In Lincoln's low-crowned, 
broad-brimmed hat the magician cooked eggs. As 
explanatory of the delay in passing up his hat Lin- 


coin drolly observed/' It was out of respect for the 
eggs, not care for my hat." 

Having loaded the vessel with pork in barrels, 
corn, and hogs, these sturdy boatmen swung out 
into the stream. On April 19 they reached the town 
of New Salem, a place destined to be an important 
spot in the career of Lincoln. There they met 
with their first serious delay. The boat stranded 
on Rutledge's mill-dam and hung helplessly over it 
a day and a night. '' We unloaded the boat," nar- 
rated one of the crew to explain how they obtained 
relief from, their embarrassing situation ; '' that is, we 
transferred the goods from our boat to a borrowed 
one. We then rolled the barrels forward ; Lincoln 
bored a hole in the end [projecting] over the dam; 
the water which had leaked in ran out and we slid 
over." OfTut was profoundly impressed with this 
exhibition of Lincoln's ingenuity. In his enthusi- 
asm he declared to the crowd who covered the hill 
and who had been watching Lincoln's operation 
that he would build a steamboat to plow up and 
down the Sangamon, and that Lincoln should be her 
Captain. She would have rollers for shoals and 
dams, runners for ice, and with Lincoln in charge, 
" By thunder, she'd have to go ! " 

After release from their embarrassing, not to say 
perilous, position the boat and her crew floated away 
from New Salem and passed on to a point known 
as Blue Banks, where as the historian of the voyage 
says : '' We had to load some hogs bought of Squire 
Godbey. We tried to drive them aboard, but could 
not. They would run back past us. Lincoln then 


suggested that we sew their eyes shut. Thinking to 
try it, we caught them, Abe holding their heads and 
I their tails while Offut sewed up their eyes. Still 
they wouldn't drive. At last, becoming tired, we 
carried them to the boat. Abe received them and 
cut open their eyes, Johnston and I handing them 
to him." After thus disposing of the hog problem 
they again swung loose and floated down-stream. 
From the Sangamon they passed to the Illinois. 
At Beardstown their unique craft» with its ** sails 
made of planks and cloth," excited the amusement 
and laughter of those who saw them from the 
shore. Once on the bosom of the broad Mis- 
sissippi they glided past Alton, St. Louis, and 
Cairo in rapid succession, tied up for a day at 
Memphis, and made brief stops at Vicksburg and 
Natchez. Early in May they reached New Orleans, 
where they lingered a month, disposing of their 
cargo and viewing the sights which the Crescent 
City afforded. 

In New Orleans, for the first time Lincoln be- 
held the true horrors of human slavery. He 
saw " negroes in chains — whipped and scourged." 
Against this inhumanity his sense of right and 
justice rebelled, and his mind and conscience were 
awakened to a realization of what he had often 
heard and read. No doubt, as one of his compan- 
ions has said, '' Slavery ran the iron into him then 
and there." One morning in their rambles over 
the city the trio passed a slave auction. A vigor- 
ous and comely mulatto girl was being sold. She 
underwent a thorough examination at the hands of 


the bidders; they pinched her flesh and made her 
trot up and down the room like a horse, to show 
how she moved, and in order, as the auctioneer said, 
that '* bidders might satisfy themselves " whether 
the article they were offering to buy was sound or 
not. The whole thing was so revolting that Lincoln 
moved away from the scene with a deep feeling of 
" unconquerable hate." Bidding his companions 
follow him he said, '* By God, boys, let's get away 
from this. If ever I get a chance to hit that thing 
[meaning slavery], I'll hit it hard." This incident 
was furnished me in 1865, by John Hanks. I have 
also heard Mr. Lincoln refer to it himself. 

In June the entire party, including Offut, boarded 
a steamboat going up the river. At St. Louis they 
disembarked, Offut remaining behind while Lin- 
coln, Hanks, and Johnston started across Illinois 
on foot. At Edwardsville they separated, Hanks 
going to Springfield, while Lincoln and his step- 
brother followed the road to Coles county, to which 
point old Thomas Lincoln had meanwhile removed. 
Here Abe did not tarry long, probably not over a 
month, but long enough to dispose most effectually 
of one Daniel Needham, a famous wrestler who had 
challenged the returned boatman to a test of 
strength. The contest took place at a locality 
known as ''Wabash Point." Abe threw his an- 
tagonist twice with comparative ease, and thereby 
demonstrated such marked strength and agility as 
to render him forever popular with the boys of that 

In August the waters of the Sangamon river 


washed Lincoln in to New Salem. This once 
sprightly and thriving village is no longer in exist- 
ence. Not a building, scarcely a stone, is left to 
mark the place where it once stood. To reach it 
now the traveller must ascend a bluff a hundred 
feet above the general level of the surrounding 
country. The brow of the ridge, two hundred and 
fifty feet broad where it overlooks the river, widens 
gradually as it extends westwardly to the forest 
and ultimately to broad pastures. Skirting the base 
of the bluff is the Sangamon river, which, coming 
around a sudden bend from the south-east, strikes 
the rocky hill and is turned abruptly north. Here 
is an old mill, driven by water-power, and reaching 
across the river is the mill-dam on which Offut's 
vessel hung stranded in April, 183 1. As the river 
rolled her turbid waters over the dam, plunging 
them into the whirl and eddy beneath, the roar 
of waters, like low, continuous, distant thunder, 
could be distinctly heard through the village day 
and night. 

The country in almost every direction is diversi- 
fied by alternate stretches of hills and level lands, 
with streams between each struggling to reach the 
river. The hills are bearded with timber — oak, 
hickory, walnut, ash, and elm. Below them are 
stretches of rich alluvial bottom land, and the eye 
ranges over a vast expanse of foliage, the monotony 
of which is relieved by the alternating swells and 
depressions of the landscape. Between peak and 
peak, through its bed of limestone, sand, and clay, 
sometimes kissing the feet of one bluff and then 


hugging the other, rolls the Sangamon river. The 
village of New Salem, which once stood on the 
ridge, was laid out in 1828 ; it became a trading 
place, and in 1836 contained twenty houses and a 
hundred inhabitants. In the days of land offices and 
stage-coaches it was a sprightly village with a busy 
market. Its people were progressive and industri- 
ous. Propitious winds filled the sails of its com- 
merce, prosperity smiled graciously on its every en- 
terprise, and the outside world encouraged its social 
pretensions. It had its day of glory, but, singu- 
larly enough, cotemporaneous with the departure of 
Lincoln from its midst it went into a rapid decline. 
A few crumbling stones here and there are all that 
attest its former existence. *' How it vanished," 
observes one writer, " like a mist in the morning, 
to what distant places its inhabitants dispersed, 
and what became of the abodes they left behind, 
shall be questions for the local historian." 

Lincoln's return to New Salem in August, 1831, 
was, within a few days, contemporaneous with the 
reappearance of Offut, who made the gratifying 
announcement that he had purchased a stock of 
goods which were to follow him from Beardstown. 
He had again retained the services of Lincoln to 
assist him when his merchandise should come to 
hand. The tall stranger — destined to be a stranger 
in New Salem no longer — pending the arrival of his 
employer's goods, lounged about the village with 
nothing to do. Leisure never sat heavily on him. 
To him there was nothing uncongenial in it, and he 
might very properly have been dubbed at the time 


a " loafer." He assured those with whom he came 
in contact that he was a piece of floating driftwood ; 
that after the winter of deep snow, he had come 
down the river with the freshet ; borne along by the 
swelling waters, and aimlessly floating about, he had 
accidentally lodged at New Salem. Looking back 
over his history we are forced to conclude that 
Providence or chance, or whatever power is re- 
sponsible for it, could not have assigned him to a 
more favorable refuge. 

His introduction to the citizens of New Salem, as 
Mentor Graham* the school-teacher tells us, was in 
the capacity of clerk of an election board. Graham 
furnishes ample testimony of the facility, fairness, 
and honesty which characterized the new clerk's 
work, and both teacher and clerk were soon bound 
together by the warmest of ties. During the day, 
when votes were coming in slowly, Lincoln began 
to entertain the crowd at the polls with a few 
attempts at story-telling. My cousin, J. R. Herndon, 
was present and enjoyed this feature of the election 
with the keenest relish. He never forgot some of 
Lincoln's yarns, and was fond of repeating them in 
after years. The recital of a few stories by Lincoln 
easily established him in the good graces of all 
New Salem. Perhaps he did not know it at the time, 
but he had used the weapon nearest at hand and 
had won.f 

* Nicolay and Hay in the Centttry make the mistake of spelling 
this man's name " Menton " Graham. In all the letters and papers 
from him he signs himself " Mentor " in every case. — J. W, W. 

t " In the afternoon, as things were dragging a little, Lincoln the 


A few days after the election Lincoln found em- 
ployment with one Dr. Nelson, who after the style 
of dignitaries of later days started with his family 
and effects in his '* private " conveyance — which in 
this instance was a flat-boat — for Texas. Lincoln 
was hired to pilot the vessel through to the Illinois 
river. Arriving at Beardstown the pilot was dis- 
charged, and returned on foot across the sand and 

new man, began to spin out a stock of Indiana yarns. One that 
amused me more than any other he called the lizard story. ' The 
meeting-house,' *he said, ' was in the woods and quite a distance 
from any other house. It was only used once a month. The preacher 
— an old line Baptist — was dressed in coarse linen pantaloons, and 
shirt of the same material. The pants, manufactured after the old 
fashion, with baggy legs and a flap in front, were made to attach 
to his frame without the aid of suspenders. A single button held 
his shirt in position, and that was at the collar. He rose up in the 
pulpit and with a loud voice announced his text thus : ' I am the 
Christ, whom I shall represent to-day.' About this time a little 
blue lizard ran up underneath his roomy pantaloons. The old 
preacher, not wishing to interrupt the steady flow of his sermon, 
slapped away on his legs, expecting to arrest the intruder; but his 
efforts were unavailing, and the little fellow kept on ascending higher 
and higher. Continuing the sermon, the preacher slyly loosened 
the central button which graced the waist-band of his pantaloons 
and with a kick off came that easy-fitting garment. But meanwhile 
Mr. Lizard had passed the equatorial line of waist-band and was 
calmly exploring that part of the preacher's anatomy which lay 
underneath the back of his shirt. Things were now growing inter- 
esting, but the sermon was still grinding on. The next movement on 
the preachc^r's part was for the collar button, and with one sweep of 
his arm off came the tow linen shirt. The congregation sat for an 
instant as if dazed ; at length one old lady in the rear of the room 
rose up and glancing at the excited object in the pulpit, shouted at 
the top of her voice : * If you represent Christ then I'm done with 
the Bible.' "—J. R. Herndon, MS., July 2, 1865. 


hills to New Salem. In the meantime OiTut's long 
expected goods had arrived, and Lincoln was placed 
in charge. Offut relied in no slight degree on the 
business capacity of his clerk. In his effusive way 
he praised him beyond reason. He boasted of his 
skill as a business man and his wonderful intellect- 
ual acquirements. As for physical strength and 
fearlessness of danger, he challenged New Salem 
and the entire world to produce his equal. In 
keeping with his widely known spirit of enterprise 
Offut rented the Rutledge and Cameron mill, which 
stood at the foot of the hill, and thus added another 
iron to keep company with the half-dozen already 
in the fire. As a further test of his business ability 
Lincoln was placed in charge of this also. William 
G. Greene was hired to assist him, and between the 
two a life-long friendship sprang up. They slept in 
the store, and so strong was the intimacy between 
them that "when one turned over the other had to 
do likewise." At the head of these varied enter- 
prises was Offut, the most progressive man by all 
odds in the village. He was certainly an odd 
character, if we accept the judgment of his cotem- 
poraries. By some he is given the character of 
a clear-headed, brisk man of affairs. By others 
he is variously described as *' wild, noisy, and 
reckless," or " windy, rattle-brained, unsteady, and 
improvident." Despite the unenviable traits as- 
cribed to him he was good at heart and a generous 
friend of Lincoln. His boast that the latter could 
outrun, whip, or throw down any man in Sangamon 
county was soon tested, as we shall presently see, 


for, as another has truthfully expressed it, " honors 
such as Offut accorded to Abe were to be won be- 
fore they were worn at New Salem." In the neigh- 
borhood of the village, or rather a few miles to the 
south-west, lay a strip of timber called Clary's Grove. 
The boys who lived there were a terror to the 
entire region — seemingly a necessary product of 
frontier civilization. They were friendly and good- 
natured ; they could trench a pond, dig a bog, build 
a house ; they could pray and fight, make a village 
or create a state. They would do almost anything 
for sport or fun, love or necessity. Though rude 
and rough, though life's forces ran over the edge 
of the bowl, foaming and sparkling in pure dev- 
iltry for deviltry's sake, yet place before them 
a poor man who needed their aid, a lame or sick 
man, a defenceless woman, a widow, or an orphaned 
child, they melted into sympathy and charity at 
once. They gave all they had, and willingly toiled 
or played cards for more. Though there never was 
under the sun a more generous parcel of rowdies, 
a stranger's introduction was likely to be the most 
unpleasant part of his acquaintance with them. 
They conceded leadership to one Jack Armstrong, 
a hardy, strong, and well-developed specimen of 
physical manhood, and under him they were in the 
habit of '' cleaning out " New Salem whenever his 
order went forth to do so. Offut and *' Bill " Clary 
— the latter skeptical of Lincoln's strength and 
agility — ended a heated discussion in the store one 
day over the new clerk's ability to meet the tactics 
of Clary's Grove, by a bet of ten dollars that Jack 


Armstrong was, in the language of the day, *' a 
better man than Lincoln." The new clerk strongly 
opposed this sort of an introduction, but after 
much entreaty from Offut, at last consented to make 
his bow to the social lions of the town in this un- 
usual way. He was now six feet four inches high, 
and weighed, as his friend and confidant, William 
Greene, tells us with impressive precision, '' two hun- 
dred and fourteen pounds." The contest was to 
be a friendly one and fairly conducted. All New 
Salem adjourned to the scene of the wrestle. 
Money, whiskey, knives, and all manner of property 
were staked on the result. It is unnecessary to 
go into the details of the encounter. Every- 
one knows how it ended ; how at last the tall 
and angular rail-splitter, enraged at the suspicion 
of foul tactics, and profiting by his height 
and the length of his arms, fairly lifted the 
great bully by the throat and shook him like a 
rag ; how by this act he established himself solidly 
in the esteem of all New Salem, and secured 
the respectful admiration and friendship of the 
very man whom he had so thoroughly vanquished.* 
From this time forward Jack Armstrong, his wife 

♦ Mr. Lincoln's remarkable strength resulted not so much from 
muscular power as from the toughness of his sinews. He could 
not only lift from the ground enormous weight, but could throw a 
cannon-ball or a maul farther than anyone else in New Salem. I 
heard him explain once how he was enabled thus to excel others. 
He did not attribute it to a greater proportion of physical strength, 
but contended that because of the unusual length of his arms the ball 
or projectile had a greater swing and therefore acquired more force 
and momentum than in the hands of an average man. 


Hannah, and all the other Armstrongs became his 
warm and trusted friends. None stood readier 
than they to rally to his support, none more will- 
ing to lend a helping hand. Lincoln appreciated 
their friendship and support, and in after years 
proved his gratitude by saving one member of the 
family from the gallows. 

The business done over Offut's counter gave his 
clerk frequent intervals of rest, so that, if so inclined, 
an abundance of time for study was always at his 
disposal. Lincoln had long befde realized the 
deficiencies of his education, and resolved, now that 
the conditions were favorable, to atone for early 
neglect by a course of study. Nothing was more 
apparent to him than his limited knowledge of 
language, and the proper way of expressing his ideas. 
Moreover, it may be said that he appreciated his 
inefficiency in a rhetorical sense, and therefore de- 
termined to overcome all these obstacles by master- 
ing the intricacies of grammatical construction. 
Acting on the advice of Mentor Graham he hunted 
up one Vaner, who was the reputed owner of Kirk- 
ham's Grammar, and after a walk of several miles 
returned to the store with the coveted volume under 
his arm. With zealous perseverance he at once 
applied himself to the book. Sometimes he would 
stretch out at full length on the counter, his head 
propped up on a stack of calico prints, studying it ; 
or he would steal away to the shade of some invit- 
ing tree, and there spend hours at a time in a deter- 
mined effort to fix in his mind the arbitrary rule 
that •' adverbs qualify verbs, adjectives, and other 


adverbs." From the vapidity of grammar it was 
now and then a great relaxation to turn to the more 
agreeable subject of mathematics ; and he might 
often have been seen lying face downwards, stretched 
out over six feet of grass, figuring out on scraps of 
paper some problem given for solution by a quiz- 
zical store lounger, or endeavoring to prove that, 
** multiplying the denominator of a fraction divides 
it, while dividing the denominator multiplies it." 
Rather a poor prospect one is forced to admit for 
a successful man of business. 

At this point in my narrative I am pained to drop 
from further notice our buoyant and effusive friend 
Offut. His business ventures failing to yield the ex- 
tensive returns he predicted, and too many of his obli- 
gations maturing at the same time, he was forced to 
pay the penalty of commercial delinquency and went 
to the wall. He soon disappeared from the village, 
and the inhabitants thereof never knew whither he 
went. In the significant language of Lincoln he 
"petered out." As late as 1873 I received a letter 
from Dr. James Hall, a physician living at St. Den- 
nis, near Baltimore, Maryland, who, referring to the 
disappearance of Offut, relates the following reminis- 
cence : "Of what consequence to know or learn 
more of Offut I cannot imagine ; but be assured he 
turned up after leaving New Salem„ On meeting 
the name it seemed familiar, but I could not locate 
him. Finally I fished up from memory that some 
twenty-five years ago one " Denton Offut" appeared 
in Baltimore, hailing from Kentucky, advertising 
himself in the city papers as a veterinary surgeon 


and horse tamer, professing to have a secret to whis- 
per in the horse's ear, or a secret manner of whisper- 
ing in his ear, which he could communicate to oth- 
ers, and by which the most refractory and vicious 
horse could be quieted and controlled. For this 
secret he charged five dollars, binding the recipient 
by oath not to divulge it. I know several persons, 
young fancy horsemen, who paid for the trick. 
Offut advertised himself not only through the press, 
but by his strange attire. He appeared in the 
streets on horseback and on foot, in plain citizens' 
dress of black, but with a broad sash across his right 
shoulder, of various colored ribbons, crossed on his 
left hip under a large rosette of the same material, 
the whole rendering his appearance most ludicrously 
conspicuous. Having occasion to purchase a horse 
I encountered him at several of our stables and was 
strongly urged to avail myself of his secret. So 
much for Offut; but were he living in '6i, I doubt 
not Mr. Lincoln would have heard of him." 

The early spring of 1832 brought to Springfield 
and New Salem a most joyful announcement. It 
was the news of the coming of a steamboat down 
the Sangamon river — proof incontestable that the 
stream was navigable. The enterprise was under- 
taken and carried through by Captain Vincent Bogue, 
of Springfield, who had gone to Cincinnati to procure 
a vessel and thus settle the much-mooted question 
of the river's navigability. When, therefore, he 
notified the people of his town that the steam- 
boat Talisman would put out from Cincinnati for 
Springfield, we can well imagine what great excite- 


ment and unbounded enthusiasm followed the an- 
nouncement. Springfield, New Salem, and all the 
other towns along the now interesting Sangamon^ 
were to be connected by water with the outside 
world. Public meetings, with the accompaniment 
of long subscription lists, were held ; the merchants 
of Springfield advertised the arrival of goods '' di- 
rect from the East per steamer Talisman ;'' the 
mails were promised as often as once a week from 
the same direction ; all the land adjoining each 
enterprising and aspiring village along the river was 
subdivided into town lots — in fact, the whole region 
began to feel the stimulating effects of what, in 
later days, would have been called a ''boom." I 
remember the occasion well, for two reasons. It 
was my first sight of a steamboat, and also the first 
time I ever saw Mr. Lincoln — although I never be- 
came acquainted with him till his second race for 
the Legislature in 1834. In response to the sug- 
gestion of Captain Bogue, made from Cincinnati, a 
number of citizens — among the number Lincoln — 
had gone down the river to Beardstown to meet 
the vessel as she emerged from the Illinois. These 
were armed with axes having long handles, to cut 
away, as Bogue had recommended, '' branches of trees 
hanging over from the banks." After having passed 
New Salem, I and other boys on horseback followed 
the boat, riding along the river's bank as far as 

* The final syllable of this name was then pronounced to rhyme 
with " raw." In later days the letter *' n" was added— probably for 
euphony's sake. 



Bogue's mill, where she tied up. There we went 
aboard, and lost in boyish wonder, feasted our eyes 
on the splendor of her interior decorations. The 
Sangamon Journal of that period contains numer- 
ous poetical efforts celebrating the Talis- 
mans arrival. A few lines under date of April 
5, 1832, unsigned, but supposed to have been 
the product of a local poet — one Oliphant* — were 
sung to the tune of '* Clar de Kitchen." I cannot 
refrain from inflicting a stanza or two of this ode on 
the reader : 

" O, Captain Bogue he gave the load, 
And Captain Bogue he showed the road ; 
And we came up with a right good will, 
And tied our boat up to his mill. 

Now we are up the Sangamo, 
And here we'll have a grand hurra, 
So fill your glasses to the brim. 
Of whiskey, brandy, wine, and gin. 

Illinois suckers, young and raw. 
Were strung along the Sangamo, 
To see a boat come up by steam 
They surely thought it was a dream." 

On its arrival at Springfield, or as near Springfield 
as the river ran, the crew of the boat were given a 
reception and dance in the court-house. The cream 
of the town's society attended to pay their respects 
to the newly arrived guests. The captain in charge 
of the boat — not Captain Bogue, but a vainly 
dressed fellow from the East — was accompanied by 
a woman, more gaudily attired than himself, whom 

* E. P. Oliphant, a lawyer. 


he introduced as his wife. Of course the most con- 
siderate attention was shown them both, until later 
in the evening, when it became apparent that the 
gallant officer and his fair partner had imbibed too 
freely — for in those days we had plenty of good 
cheer — and were becoming unpleasantly demonstra- 
tive in their actions. This breach of good manners 
openly offended the high-toned nature of Spring- 
field's fair ladies ; but not more than the lament- 
able fact, which they learned on the following day, 
that the captain's partner was not his wife after all, 
but a woman of doubtful reputation whom he had 
brought with him from some place further east. 
But to return to the Talisman. That now inter- 
esting vessel lay for a week longer at Bogue's mill, 
when the receding waters admonished her officers 
that unless they purposed spending the remainder 
of the year there they must head her down-stream, 
In this emergency recourse was had to my cousin 
Rowan Herndon, who had had no little experience 
as a boatman, and who recommended the employ- 
ment of Lincoln as a skilful assistant. These two 
inland navigators undertook therefore the contract 
of piloting the vessel — which had now become ele- 
phantine in proportions — through the uncertain 
channel of the Sangamon to the Illinois river. 
The average speed was four miles a day. At New 
Salem safe passage over the mill-dam. was deemed 
impossible unless the same could be lowered or a 
portion removed.'^ To this, Cameron and Rut- 

* The affair at New Salem is thus described by Oliphant in the 
poem before referred to : 




ledge, owners of the mill, entered their most stren- 
uous protest. The boat's officers responded that 
under the Federal Constitution and laws no one had 
the right to dam up or in any way obstruct a navi- 
gable stream, and they argued that, as they had just 
demonstrated that the Sangamon was navigable (?), 
they proposed to remove enough of the obstruc- 
tion to let the boat through. Rowan Herndon, 
describing it to me in 1865, said: ''When we 
struck the dam she hung. We then backed off and 
threw the anchor over. We tore away part of the 
dam and raising steam ran her over on the first 
trial." The entire proceeding stirred up no little 
feeling, in which mill owners, boat officers, and pas- 
sengers took part. The effect the return trip of 
the Talisman had on those who believed in the 
successful navigation of the Sangamon is shrewdly 
indicated by the pilot, who with laconic compla- 
cency adds: ''As soon as she was over, the com- 
pany that chartered her was done with her." Lin- 
coln and Herndon, in charge of the vessel, piloted 
her through to Beardstown. There they were paid 
forty dollars each, according to contract, and bid- 
ding adieu to the Talismans officers and crew, 
set out on foot for New Salem again. A few 
months later the Talisman caught fire at the 
wharf in St. Louis and went up in flames. The 
experiment of establishing a steamboat line to 

" And when we came to Salem dam, 
Up we went against it jam : 
We tried to cross with all our might, 
But found we couldn't and staid all night." 


yV/A' ///'A (>/ / /,\'( •(>/.>■ 

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pmjri tvM . r.ipt.mi ru>i;iu-. I'ltulm;,; hiiif.rll im.ihK- 
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witli notiic-s ot .lll.uhMUM\t |>1>h crJin;;-. l>H>ll>'J\t I))' 
vigilant lU'ilitpis \\lu» li.ul U\ Kil on lu.-. j;ooils. 


The departure of the Talisman for deeper 
waters, the downfall of Denton Offut's varied 
enterprises and his disappearance from New Salem, 
followed in rapid succession, and before the spring 
of 1832 had merged into summer Lincoln found 
himself a piece of *' floating driftwood " again. 
Where he might have lodged had not the Black 
Hawk war intervened can only be a matter of con- 
jecture. A glance at this novel period in his life 
may not be out of keeping with the purpose of this 
book. The great Indian chief, Black Hawk, who 
on the 30th of June, 1831, had entered into an 
agreement, having all the solemnity of a treaty, with 
Governor Reynolds and General Gaines that none of 
his tribe should ever cross the Mississippi '' to their 
usual place of residence, nor any part of their old 
hunting grounds east of the Mississippi, without 
permission of the President of the United States or 
the governor of the State of Illinois," had openly 
broken the compact. On the 6th of April, 1832, he 
recrossed the Mississippi and marched up Rock 
River Valley, accompanied by about five hundred 
warriors on horseback ; while his women and children 
went up the river in canoes. The great chief was 
now sixty-seven years old, and believed that his plots 




were all ripe and his allies fast and true. Although 
warned by General Atkinson, then in command of 
Fort Armstrong, against this aggression, and 
ordered to return, he proudly refused, claiming that 
he had '' come to plant corn." On being informed 
of the movement of Black Hawk Governor Reynolds 
called for a thousand mounted volunteers to co-op- 
erate with the United States forces under command 
of General Atkinson, and drive the wily Indian 
back across the Mississippi. The response to the 
governor's call was prompt and energetic. In the 
company from Sangamon county Lincoln enlisted, 
and now for the first time entered on the vicissi- 
tudinous and dangerous life of a soldier. That he 
in fact regarded the campaign after the Indians as 
a sort of holiday affair and chicken-stealing expe- 
dition is clearly shown in a speech he afterwards 
made in Congress in exposure of the military pre- 
tensions of General Cass. However, in grim, sol- 
dierly severity he marched with the Sangamon 
county contingent to Rushville,* in Schuyler 
county, where, much to his surprise, he was elected 

* While at the rendezvous at Rushville and on the march to the 
front Lincohi of course drilled his men, and gave them such meager 
instruction in military tactics as he could impart. Some of the most 
grotesque things he ever related were descriptions of these drills. 
In marching one morning at the head of the company, who were 
following in lines of twenty abreast, it became necessary to pass 
through a gate much narrower than the lines. The captain could 
not remember the proper command to turn the company endwise, 
and the situation was becoming decidedly embarrassing, when one of 
those thoughts born of the depths of despair came to his rescue. 
Facing the lines, he shouted : " Halt ! This company will break ranks 
for two minutes and form again on the other side of the gate.'' The 
manoeuvre was successfullv executed. 



captain of the company over William Kirkpatrick. 
A recital of the campaign that followed, in the effort 
to drive the treacherous Indians back, or a descrip- 
tion of the few engagements — none of which 
reached the dignity of a battle — which took place, 
have in no wise been overlooked by the historians 
of Illinois and of the Black Hawk war. With the 
exception of those things which relate to Lincoln 
alone I presume it would be needless to attempt to 
add anything to what has so thoroughly and truth- 
fully been told. 

On being elected captain, Lincoln replied in a 
brief response of modest and thankful acceptance. 
It was the first official trust ever turned over to his 
keeping, and he prized it and the distinction it gave 
him more than any which in after years fell to his 
lot. His company savored strongly of the Clary's 
Grove order, and though daring enough in the 
presence of danger, were difficult to bring down to 
the inflexibilities of military discipline. Each one 
seemed perfectly able and willing to care for him- 
self, and while the captain's authority was respect- 
fully observed, yet, as some have said, they were 
none the less a crowd of "generous ruffians." I 
heard Mr. Lincoln say once on the subject of his 
career as captain in this company and the discipline 
he exercised over his men, that to the first order 
given one of them he received the response, " Go to 
the devil, sir! " Notwithstanding the interchange of 
many such unsoldierlike civilities between the officer 
and his men, a strong bond of affection united them 
together, and if a contest had arisen over the con- 


flict of orders between the United States authorities 
and those emanating from Captain Lincohi or some 
other IlHnois officer — as at one time was threatened 
— we need not be told to which side the Sanga- 
mon county company to a man would have gone. 
A general order forbidding the discharge of fire- 
arms within fifty yards of the camp was disobeyed 
by Captain Lincoln himself. For this violation of 
rule he was placed under arrest and deprived of his 
sword for a day. But this and other punishments 
in no way humiliated him in the esteem of his 
men ; if anything, they only clung the closer, and 
when Clary's Grove friendship asserted itself, it 
meant that firm and generous attachment found 
alone on the frontier — that bond, closer than the 
affinity of blood, which becomes stronger as danger 
approaches death. 

A soldier of the Sangamon county company 
broke into the officers' quarters one night, and with 
the aid of a tomahawk and four buckets, obtained 
by stealth a good supply of wines and liquors, which 
he generously distributed to his appreciative com- 
rades. The next morning at daybreak, when the 
army began to move, the Sangamon county com- 
pany, much to their captain's astonishment, were 
unfit for the march. Their nocturnal expedition 
had been too much for them, and one by one they 
fell by the wayside, until but a mere handful re- 
mained to keep step with their gallant and 
astounded captain. Those who fell behind gradu- 
ally overcame the effects of their carousal, but were 
hard pressed to overtake the command, and it was 


far into the night when the last one straggled into 
camp. The investigation which followed resulted 
only in the captain suffering the punishment for 
the more guilty men. For this infraction of mili- 
tary law he was put under arrest and made to carry 
a wooden sword for two days, ^' and this too," as 
one of his company has since assured me, " although 
he was entirely blameless in the matter." 

Among the few incidents of Lincoln's career in 
the Black Hawk war that have found a place in his- 
tory was his manly interference to protect an old 
Indian who strayed, hungry and helpless, into camp 
one day, and whom the soldiers were conspiring to 
kill on the ground that he was a spy. A letter 
from General Cass, recommending him for his past 
kind and faithful services to the whites, which the 
trembling old savage drew from beneath the folds 
of his blanket failed in any degree to appease the 
wrath of the men who confronted him. They had 
come out to fight the treacherous Indians, and here 
was one who had the temerity even to steal into 
their camp. " Make an example of him," they ex- 
claimed. " The letter is a forgery and he is a spy." 
They might have put their threats into execution 
had not the tall form of their captain, his face 
*' swarthy with resolution and rage," interposed itself 
between them and their defenseless victim. Lin- 
coln's determined look and demand that *' it must 
not be done " were enough. They sullenly desisted, 
and the Indian, unmolested, continued on his way. 

Lincoln's famous wrestling match with the re- 
doubtable Thompson, a soldier from Union county, 


who managed to throw him twice in succession, 
caused no diminution in the admiration and pride 
his men felt in their captain's muscle and prowess. 
They declared that unfair advantage had been 
taken of their champion, that Thompson had 
been guilty of foul tactics, and that, in the language 
of the sporting arena, it was a '' dog-fall." Lin- 
coln's magnanimous action, however, in according 
his opponent credit for fair dealing in the face of 
the wide-spread and adverse criticism that prevailed, 
only strengthened him in the esteem of all.^ 

At times the soldiers were hard pressed for food, 
but by a combination of ingenuity and labor in pro- 
portions known only to a volunteer soldier, they 
managed to avoid the unpleasant results of long- 
continued and unsatisfied hunger, " At an old 
Winnebago town called Turtle Village," narrates 
a member of the company, ''after -stretching our 
rations over nearly four days, one of our mess, an 
old acquaintance of Lincoln, G. B. Fanchier, shot a 
dove, and having a gill of flour left we made a gallon 
and a half of delicious soup in an old tin bucket 
that had been lost by Indians. This soup we 
divided among several messes that were hungrier 

* William L, Wilson, a survivor of the war, in a letter under date 
of February 3, 1882, after detailing reminiscences of Stillman's de- 
feat, says : " I have during that time had much fun with the after- 
wards President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. I remem- 
ber one time of wrestling with him, two best in three, and ditched 
him. He was not satisfied, and we tried it in a foot race for a five- 
dollar bill. I won the money, and 'tis spent long ago. And many 
more reminiscences could I give, but am of the Quaker persuasion, 
and not much given to writing." 


than we were and our own mess, by pouring in each 
man's cup a portion of the esculent. Once more, at 
another time, in the extreme northern part of IlHnois, 
we had been very hungry for two days, but suddenly 
came upon a new cabin at the edge of the prairie 
that the pioneer sovereign squatter family had va- 
cated and 'skedaddled' from for fear of losing their 
scalps. There were plenty of chickens about the 
cabin, much hungrier than we ourselves were, if pov- 
erty is to test the matter, and the boys heard a voice 
saying ' Slay and eat.' They at once went to run- 
ning, clubbing, and shooting them as long as they 
could be found. Whilst the killing was going on I 
climbed to the ridge-pole of the smoke-house to see 
distinctly what I saw obscurely from the ground, 
and behold! the cleanest, sweetest jole I ever saw — 
alone, half hid by boards and ridge-pole, stuck up 
no doubt for future usCo By this time many of the 
chickens were on the fire, broiling, for want of grease 
or gravy to fry them in. Some practical fellow 
proposed to throw in with the fowls enough bacon 
to convert broiling into frying ; the proposition was 
adopted, and they were soon fried. We began to 
eat the tough, dry chickens with alternating mouth- 
fuls of the jole, when Lincoln came to the repast 
with the query, ' Eating chicken, boys ? ' ' Not 
much, sir,' I responded, for we had operated princi- 
pally on the jole, it being sweeter and more palatable 
than the chickens, ' It is much like eating saddle- 
bags,' he responded ; ' but I think the stomach can 
accomplish! much to-day ; but what have you got 
there with the skeletons, George ? ' ' We did have 



a sweet jole of a hog, sir,' I answered, * but you are 
nearly too late for your share,' at the same time 
making room for him to approach the elm-bark 
dish. He ate the bacon a moment, then com- 
menced dividing by mouthfuls to the boys from 
other messes, who came to ' see what Abe was at,' 
and saying many quaint and funny things suited to 
the time and the jole." The captain, it will be seen, 
by his " freedom without familiarity " and his 
" courtesy without condescension," was fast making 
inroads on the respect of his rude but appreciative 
men. He was doubtless looking a long way ahead, 
when both their friendship and respect would be of 
avail, for as the chronicler last quoted from con- 
tinues : " He was acquainted with everybody, and 
he had determined, as he told me, to become a can- 
didate for the next Legislature. The mess imme- 
diately pitched on him as our standard-bearer, and 
he accepted." 

The term for which the volunteers had enlisted 
had now expired, and the majority, tiring of the ser- 
vice, the novelty of which had worn off, and longing 
for the comforts and good cheer of their homes, 
refused either to re-enlist or render further service. 
They turned their faces homeward, each with his 
appetite for military glory well satiated. But the 
war was not over, and the mighty Black Hawk was 
still east of the Mississippi. A few remained and 
re-enlisted. Among them was Lincoln. This time, 
eschewing the responsibility of a captaincy, and to 
avoid the possible embarrassment of dragging about 
camp a wooden sword, he entered the company of 


Elijah lies as a dignified private. It has pleased 
some of Mr. Lincoln's biographers to attribute this 
re-enlistment to pure patriotism on his part and 
a conscientious desire to serve his country. From 
the standpoint of sentiment that is a comfortable 
view to take of it ; but I have strong reason to be- 
lieve that Mr. Lincoln never entertained such serious 
notions of the campaign. \w fact, I may say that 
my information comes from the best authority to be 
had in the matter— the soldier himself. Mr. 
Lincoln had no home ; he had cut loose from his 
parents, from the Hankses and the Johnstons; he 
left behind him no anxious wife and children ; and 
no chair before a warm fireside remained vacant for 
him. '' I was out of work," he said to me once, 
*' and there being no danger of more fighting, I 
could do nothing better than enlist again." 

After his discharge from this last and brief period 
of service, along with the remainder of the Sanga- 
mon county soldiers, he departed from the scenes 
of recent hostilities for New Salem again. His 
soldier days had ended, and he returned now to 
enter upon a far different career. However much 
in later years he may have pretended to ridicule 
the disasters of the Black Hawk war, or the part he 
took in it, yet I believe he was rather proud of it 
after all. When Congress, along in the fifties, 
granted him a land warrant he was greatly pleased. 
He located it on some land in Iowa, and declared 
to me one day that he would die seized of that 
land, and although the tract never yielded him 

iitiyi)nny^}if: ti*:vt:f, '»*/ far ;«■♦ rny V u* tvAf:(h/^^. r'xtf:n<li» 

Tlifr rcUnu of the iil;M>. Hawk warrior* to New 
SaJcm t)tx\ntt*A )nt})*rinorjUj *yf Aw^^j^f, but ;i >li<-»rt 
tirr)<r \>f:\<)YK the j/eneraleletJion. A ij<:w iMyJ^U^urc 
WHS-/ to be rJio^/en, an<J *ij* Lincoln lj;i<l <J<;(Jar''<i to 
hj>* cofrjra<Je» in the 'duny lie would, and in obedU 
cnce to the t^fia^/iv*: 'hxlarnii'm of prineiple^j which 
he hyd i^A.ued over hi* ♦Jf/nature in March, before 
he w' nl to the wdtf he presented hirnMrlf to the 
people of )n-» newly adopted county an. a tatididate 
jor the Legi*>lature, It )5> n'yt necev^ary t<> enter 
into an ^count of the political conditions, in lllinoi* 
at that time, or the effect had on the %'dw by tl)oi*c 

*"J ' ♦^^ l^'Mwrty lyi»»/l Warrjifrti f*«HJ«4 t// AbM)>a«j 

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Vy til'; K*;}/iM<;^ «yf tU.livt^jy. 

hrj^m^nf '/.y, <^/yy, '/M l|;«: tJ** h*iU 'y/ <!<<! 

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'I'm: I III: Oh' I ixroi.iv. 


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agraph was so constructed as to appeal to the chiv- 
alrous sentiments of Clary's Grove. *' I was born 
and have ever remained," he declares, '' in the most 
humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popu- 
lar relatives or friends to recommend me. My case 
is thrown exclusively upon the independent voters 
of the county; and if elected they will have con- 
ferred a favor upon me for which I shall be unre- 
mitting in my labors to compensate. But if," he 
dryly concludes, " the good people in their wisdom 
shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have 
been too familiar with disappointments to be very 
much chagrined." 

The election being near at hand only a few days 
remained for his canvass. One * who was with him 
at the time describing his appearance, says : '' He 
wore a mixed jeans coat, clawhammer style, short 
in the sleeves and bobtail — in fact it was so short 
in the tail he could not sit on it ; flax and tow- 
linen pantaloons, and a straw hat. I think he wore 
a vest, but do not remember how it looked. He 
wore pot-metal boots." His maiden effort on the 
stump was a speech on the occasion of a public 
sale at Pappsville, a village eleven miles west of 
Springfield. After the sale was over and speech- 
making had begun, a fight — a " general fight," as 
one of the bystanders relates — ensued, and Lincoln, 
noticing one of his friends about to succumb to 
the energetic attack of an infuriated ruffian, inter- 
posed to prevent it. He did so most effectually. 

* A. Y. Ellis, letter, June 5, 1866, MS. 


Hastily descending from the rude platform he 
edged his way through the crowd, and seizing the 
bully by the neck and seat of his trowsers, threw 
him by means of his strength and long arms, as one 
witness stoutly insists, '' twelve feet away." Re- 
turning to the stand and throwing aside his hat he 
inaugurated his campaign with the following brief 
but juicy declaration : 

'' Fellow Citizens, I presume you all know who I 
am. I am humble Abraham Lincoln. I have been 
solicited by many friends to become a candidate for 
the Legislature. My politics are short and sweet, 
like the old woman's dance. I am in favor of a 
national bank. I am in favor of the internal im- 
provement system and a high protective tariff. 
These are my sentiments and political principles. 
If elected I shall be thankful ; if not it will be all 
the same." 

I obtained this speech from A. Y. Ellis, who in 
1865 wrote it out. Ellis was his friend and sup- 
porter, and took no little interest in his canvass. 
'* I accompanied him," he relates, " on one of his 
electioneering trips to Island Grove, and he made 
a speech which pleased his party friends very well 
indeed, though some of the Jackson men tried to 
make sport of it. He told several anecdotes, and 
applied them, as I thought, very well. He also told 
the boys several stories which drew them after him. 
I remember them, but modesty and my veneration 
for his memory forbid me to relate them." His 
story-telling propensity, and the striking fitness of 
his yarns — many of them being of the bar-room 


order — in illustrating public questions, as we shall 
see further along in these chapters, was really one 
of the secrets of his popularity and strength. 
The election, as he had predicted, resulted in his 
defeat — the only defeat, as he himself afterward 
stated, that he ever suffered at the hands of the 
people. But there was little defeat in it after all. 
Out of the eight unsuccessful candidates he stood 
third from the head of the list, receiving 657 votes. 
Five others received less. The most gratifying 
feature of it all was the hearty support of his 
neighbors at New Salem. Of the entire 208 votes 
in the precinct he received every one save three. 

It may not be amiss to explain the cause of this 
remarkable endorsement of Lincoln by the voters 
in New Salem. It arose chiefly from his advocacy 
of the improvement of the Sangamon river. He 
proposed the digging of a canal a few miles east of 
the point where the Sangamon enters the Illinois 
river, thereby giving the former two mouths. 
This, he explained to the farmers, would prevent 
the accumulation of back-water and consequent 
overflow of their rich alluvial bottom lands in the 
spring. It would also avert the sickness and evil 
results of stagnant pools, which formed in low 
places after the high waters receded. His scheme 
— that is the name by which it would be known 
to-day — commended itself to the judgment of his 
neighbors, and the flattering vote he received shows 
how they endorsed it. 

The unsuccessful result of the election did not 
dampen his hopes nor sour his ambition. The ex- 


tensive acquaintance, the practice in public speak- 
ing, the confidence gained with the people, to- 
gether with what was augmented in himself, made a 
surplus of capital on which he was free to draw and 
of which he afterwards frequently availed himself. 
The election being over, however, he found himself 
without money, though with a goodly supply of 
experience, drifting again. His political experience 
had forever weaned him from the dull routine of 
common labor. Labor afiforded him no time for 
study and no incentive to profitable reflection. 
What he seemed to want was some lighter work, 
employment in a store or tavern where he could meet 
the village celebrities, exchange views with strangers, 
discuss politics, horse-races, cock-fights, and narrate 
to listening loafers his striking and significant 
stories. In the communities where he had lived, 
the village store-keeper held undisturbed sway. 
He took the only newspapers, owned the only col- 
lection of books and half the property in the vil- 
lage ; and in general was the social, and oftentimes 
the political head of the community. Naturally, 
therefore the prominence the store gave the mer- 
chant attracted Lincoln. But there seemed no 
favorable opening for him— clerks in New Salem 
were not in demand just then. 

My cousins, Rowan and James Herndon, were at 
that time operating a store, and tiring of their 
investment and the confinement it necessitated, 
James sold his interest to an idle, shiftless fellow 
named William Berry. Soon after Rowan disposed 
of his to Lincoln. That the latter, who was with- 


out means and in search of work, could succeed to 
the ownership of even a half interest in a concern 
where but a few days before he would in all proba- 
bility gladly have exchanged his services for his 
board, doubtless seems strange to the average 
young business man of to-day. I once asked 
Rowan Herndon what induced him to make such 
liberal terms in dealing with Lincoln, whom he had 
known for so short a time. 

*' I believed he was thoroughly honest," was the 
reply, "and that impression was so strong in me I 
accepted his note in payment of the whole. He 
had no monc}', but I would have advanced him 
still more had he asked for it." 

Lincoln and Berry had been installed in business 
but a short time until one Reuben Radford, the pro- 
prietor of another New Salem grocery, who, happen- 
ing to incur the displeasure of the Clary's Grove 
boys, decided suddenly one morning, in the commer- 
cial language of later days, to ''retire from busi- 
ness." A visit by night of the Clary's Grove con- 
tingent always hastened any man's retirement from 
business. The windows were driven in, and posses- 
sion taken of the stock without either ceremony or 
inventory. If, by break of day, the unfortunate 
proprietor found any portion of his establishment 
standing where he left it the night before, he might 
count himself lucky. In Radford's case, fearing 
'* his bones might share the fate of his windows," 
he disposed of his stock and good-will to William 
Greene for a consideration of four hundred dollars. 
The latter employed Lincoln to make an inventory 


of the goods, and when completed, the new mer- 
chant, seeing in it something of a speculation, offered 
Greene an advance of two hundred and fifty dollars 
on his investment. The offer was accepted, and the 
stock and fixtures passed into the ownership and 
control of the now enterprising firm of Lincoln & 
Berry. They subsequently absorbed the remnant 
of a store belonging to one Rutledge, which last 
transaction cleared the field of all competitors and 
left them in possession of the only mercantile con- 
cern in New Salem. 

To effect these sales not a cent of money was 
required — the buyer giving the seller his note and 
the latter assigning it to someone else in another 
trade. Berry gave his note to James Herndon, 
Lincoln his to Rowan Herndon, while Lincoln & 
Berry as a firm, executed their obligation to Greene, 
Radford, and Rutledge in succession. Surely Wall 
Street at no time in its history has furnished a brace 
of speculators who in so brief a period accomplished 
so much and with so little money. A few weeks 
only were sufficient to render apparent Lincoln's ill 
adaptation to the requirements of a successful bus- 
iness career. Once installed behind the counter 
he gave himself up to reading and study, de- 
pending for the practical management of the bus- 
iness on his partner. A more unfortunate selec- 
tion than Berry could not have been found ; for, 
while Lincoln at one end of the store was dis- 
pensing political information, Berry at the other was 
disposing of the firm's liquors, being the best cus- 
tomer for that article of merchandise himself. To 


put it more plainly, Lincoln's application to Shake- 
speare and Burns was only equalled by Berry's atten- 
tion to spigot and barrel. That the latter in the 
end succeeded in squandering a good portion of 
their joint assets, besides wrecking his own health, is 
not to be wondered at. By the spring of 1833 they, 
like their predecessors, were ready to retire. Two 
brothers named Trent coming along, they sold to 
them on the liberal terms then prevalent the busi- 
ness and good-will ; but before the latter's notes 
fell due, they in turn had failed and fled. The 
death of Berry following soon after, released him 
from the payment of an\' notes or debts, and thus 
Lincoln was left to meet the unhonored obligations 
of the ill-fated partnership, or avoid their payment 
by dividing the responsibility and pleading the fail- 
ure of the business. That he assumed all the lia- 
bility and set resolutely to work to pay everything, 
was strictly in keeping with his fine sense of honor 
and justice. He was a long time meeting these 
claims, even as late as 1848 sending to me from 
Washington portions of his salary as Congressman 
to be applied on the unpaid remnant of the Berry 
& Lincoln indebtedness — but in time he extin- 
guished it all, even to the last penny. 

Conscious of his many shortcomings as a mer- 
chant, and undaunted by the unfortunate complica- 
tions from which he had just been released, Lincoln 
returned to his books. Rowan Herndon, with 
whom he had been living, having removed to the 
country, he became for the first time a sojourner at 
the tavern, as it was then called — a public-house kept 


by Rutledge, Onstatt, and Alley in succession. '* It 
was a small log house," he explained to me in later 
years, " covered with clapboards, and contained 
four rooms." It was second only in importance to 
the store, for there he had the opportunity of meet- 
ing passing strangers — lawyers and others from the 
county seat, whom he frequently impressed with 
his knowledge as well as wit. He had, doubtless, 
long before determined to prepare himself for the 
law ; in fact, had begun to read Blackstone while in 
the store, and now went at it with renewed zeal. He 
borrowed law-books of his former comrade in the 
Black Hawk war, John T. Stuart, who was practic- 
ing law in Springfield, frequently walking there to 
return one and borrow another. His determination 
to master any subject he undertook and his appli- 
cation to study were of the most intense order. On 
the road to and from Springfield he would read and 
recite from the book he carried open in his hand, 
and claimed to have mastered forty pages of 
Blackstone during the first day after his return from 
Stuart's office. At New Salem he frequently sat 
barefooted under the shade of a tree near the 
store, poring over a volume of Chitty or Blackstone, 
sometimes lying on his back, putting his feet up the 
tree, which provokes one of his biographers to de- 
note the latter posture as one which might have been 
*' unfavorable to mental application, in the case of a 
man with shorter extremities." 

That Lincoln's attempt to make a lawyer of himself 
under such adverse and unpromising circumstances 
excited comment is not to be wondered at. Russell 


Godby, an old man who still survives, told me in 
1865, that he had often employed Lincoln to do 
farm work for him, and was surprised to find him 
one day sitting barefoot on the summit of a wood- 
pile and attentively reading a book. "■ This being 
an unusual thing for farm hands in that early day 
to do, I asked him," relates Godby, '' what he was 
reading." * I'm not reading,' he answered. ' I'm 
studying.' * Studying what ?* I enquired. * Law, 
sir,' was the emphatic response. It was really too 
much for me, as I looked at him sitting there proud 
as Cicero. ' Great God Almighty ! ' I exclaimed, 
and passed on." 

But Lincoln kept on at his studies. Wherever he 
was and whenever he could do so the book was 
broup-ht into use. He carried it with him in his 
rambles through the woods and his walks to the 
river. When night came he read it by the aid 
of any friendly light he could find. Frequently 
he went down to the cooper's shop and kindled a 
fire out of the waste material lying about, and by 
the light it afforded read until far into the night. 

One of his companions at this time relates that, 
*' while clerking in the store or serving as post- 
master he would apply himself as opportunity offered 
to his studies, if it was but five minutes time — 
would open his book which he always kept at hand, 
study it, reciting to himself ; then entertain the com- 
pany present or wait on a customer without ap- 
parent annoyance from the interruption. Have 
frequently seen him reading while walking along the 
streets. Occasionally he would become absorbed 


with his book ; would stop and stand for a few 
moments, then walk on, or pass from one house to 
another or from one crowd or squad of men to an- 
other. He was apparently seeking amusement, and 
with his thoughtful face and ill-fitting clothes was 
the last man one would have singled out for a 
student. If the company he was in was unappre- 
ciative, or their conversation at all irksome, he 
would open his book and commune with it for a 
time, until a happy thought suggested itself and 
then the book would again return to its wonted 
resting-place under his arm. He never appeared 
to be a hard student, as he seemed to master his 
studies with little effort, until he commenced the 
study of the law. In that he became wholly en- 
grossed, and began for the first time to avoid the 
society of men, in order that he might have more 
time for study. He was not what is usually termed 
a quick-minded man, although he would usually 
arrive at his conclusions very readily. He seemed 
invariably to reflect and deliberate, and never acted 
from impulse so far as to force a wrong conclusion 
on a subject of any moment." * 

It was not long until he was able to draw up 
deeds, contracts, mortgages, and other legal papers 
for his neighbors. He figured conspicuously as a 
pettifogger before the justice of the peace, but re- 
garding it merely as a kind of preliminary practice, 
seldom made any charge for his services. Mean- 
while he was reading not only lawbooks but natural 

* R. B. Rutlcdge, letter, Nov. 30. 1S66, MS. 


philosophy and other scientific subjects. He was a 
careful and patient reader of newspapers, the San- 
gamon Journal — published at Springfield — Louis- 
ville Journal, St. Lonis Republican, and Cincinnati 
Gazette being usually within his reach. He paid a 
less degree of attention to historical works, although 
he read RoUin and Gibbon while in business with 
Berry. He had a more pronounced fondness for 
fictitious literature, and read with evident relish 
Mrs. Lee Hentz's novels, which were very popular 
books in that day, and which were kindly loaned 
him by his friend A. Y. Ellis. The latter was a 
prosperous and shrewd young merchant who 
had come up from Springfield and taken quite a 
fancy to Lincoln. The two slept together and 
Lincoln frequently assisted him in the store. He 
says that Lincoln was fond of short, spicy stories 
one and two columns long, and cites as specimens, 
"Cousin Sally Dillard," ''Becky William's Court- 
ship," '' The Down-Easter and the Bull," and 
others, the very titles suggesting the character of the 
productions. He remembered everything he read, 
and could afterwards without apparent difificulty 
relate it. In fact, Mr. Lincoln's fame as a story- 
teller spread far and wide. Men quoted his sayings, 
repeated his jokes, and in remote places he was 
known as a story-teller before he was heard of either 
as lawyer or politician. 

It has been denied as often as charged that Lin- 
coln narrated vulgar stones ; but the truth is he 
loved a story however extravagant or vulgar, if it had 
a good point. If it was merely a ribald recital and 



had no sting in the end, that is, if it exposed no 
weakness or pointed no moral, he had no use for it 
either in conversation or public speech ; but if it 
had the necessary ingredients of mirth and moral 
no one could use it with more telling effect. As 
a mimic he was unequalled, and with his character- 
istic gestures, he built up a reputation for story-tell- 
ing — although fully as many of his narratives were 
borrowed as original — which followed him through 
life. One who listened to his early stories in New 
Salem says : '' His laugh was striking. Such awk- 
ward gestures belonged to no other man. They 
attracted universal attention, from the old sedate 
down to the schoolboy. Then in a few moments 
he was as calm and thoughtful as a judge on the 
bench, and as ready to give advice on the most 
important matters ; fun and gravity grew on him 

Lincoln's lack of musical adaptation has deprived 
us of many a song. For a ballad or doggerel he 
sometimes had quite a liking. He could memorize 
or recite the lines but some one else had to do the 
singing. Listen to one in which he shows '' Hoiv 
St. Patrick Came to be Born on the lyth of March:' 
Who composed it or where Lincoln obtained it I 
have never been able to learn. Ellis says he often 
inflicted it on the crowds who collected in his store 
of winter evenings. Here it is : 

" The first factional fight in old Ireland, they say, 
Was all on account of wSaint Patrick's birthday, 
It was somewhere about midnight without any doubt, 
And certain it is, it made a great rout. 


On the eighth day of March, as some people say, 
St. Patrick at midnight he first saw the day; 
While others assert 'twas the ninth he was born — 
'Twas all a mistake — between midnight and morn. 

Some blamed the baby, some blamed the clock ; 
Some blamed the doctor, some the crowing cock. 
With all these close questions sure no one could know, 
Whether the babe was too fast or the clock was too slow. 

Some fought for the eighth, for the ninth some would die; 
He who wouldn't see right would have a black eye. 
At length these two factions so positive grew, 
They each had a birthday, and Pat he had two. 

Till Father Mulcahay who showed them their sins, 
He said none could have two birthdays but as twins. 
* Now Boys, don't be fighting for the eight or the nine 
Don't quarrel so always, now why not combine.' 

Combine eight with nine. It is the mark; 

Let that be the birthday. Amen ! said the clerk. 

So all got blind drunk, which completed their bliss, 

And they've kept up the practice from that day to this." * 

As a salesman, Lincoln was lamentably deficient. 
He was too prone to lead off into a discussion of 
politics or morality, leaving someone else to finish 
the trade which he had undertaken. One of his 
employers says: ** He always disliked to wait on 
the ladies, preferring, he said, to wait on the men 
and boys. I also remember he used to sleep on the 
store counter when they had too much company at 
the tavern. He wore flax and tow linen pantaloons 
— I thought about five inches too short in the legs 
— and frequently had but one suspender, no vest or 

* From MS., furnished by Ellis in August, 1866. 


coat. He wore a calico shirt, such as he had in the 
Black Hawk war ; coarse brogans, tan color ; blue 
yarn socks and straw hat, old style, and without a 
band." His friend Ellis attributed his shyness in 
the presence of the ladies to the consciousness of 
his awkward appearance and the unpretentious con- 
dition of his wearing apparel. It was more than 
likely due to pure bashfulness. '' On one occasion," 
continues Ellis, " while we boarded at the tavern, 
there came a family consisting of an old lady, her 
son, and three stylish daughters, from the State of 
Virginia, who stopped there for two or three weeks, 
and during their stay I do not remember of Mr. 
Lincoln's ever appearing at the same table with 

As a society man, Lincoln was singularly defi- 
cient while he lived in New Salem, and even during 
the remainder of his life. He never indulged in 
gossip about the ladies, nor aided in the circulation 
of village scandal. For woman he had a high re- 
gard, and I can testify that duringmy long acquaint- 
ance with him his conversation was free from 
injurious comment in individual cases — freer from 
unpleasant allusions than that of most men. At 
one time Major Hill charged him with making 
defamatory remarks regarding his wife. Hill was 
insulting in his language to Lincoln who never lost 
his temper. When he saw a chance to edge a word 
in, Lincoln denied emphatically using the langauge 
or anything like that attributed to him. He enter- 
tained, he insisted, a high regard for Mrs. Hill, and 


the only thing he knew to her discredit was the fact 
that she was INIajor Hill's wife. 

At this time in its brief history New Salem was 
what in the parlance of large cities would be called 
a fast place ; and it was difficult for a young man of 
ordinary moral courage to resist the temptations 
that beset him on every hand. It remains a matter 
of surprise that Lincoln was able to retain his pop- 
ularity with the hosts of young men of his own age, 
and still not join them in their drinking bouts and 
carousals. "I am certain," contends one of his 
companions, " that he never drank any intoxicating 
liquors — he did not even in those days smoke or 
chew tobacco." In sports requiring either muscle 
or skill he took no little interest. He indulged in 
all the games of the day, even to a horse-race or 
cock-fight. At one eventful chicken fight, where a 
fee of twenty-five cents for the entrance of each 
fowl was assessed, one Bap. McNabb brought a 
little red rooster, whose fighting qualities had been 
well advertised for days in advance by his owner. 
Much interest was naturally taken in the contest. 
As the outcome of these contests was generally a 
quarrel, in which each man, charging foul play, 
seized his victim, they chose Lincoln umpire, rely- 
ing not only on his fairness but his ability to en- 
force his decisions. In relating what followed I 
cannot improve on the description furnished me in 
February, 1865, by one^ who was present. 

*' They formed a ring, and the time having arrived. 

* A. Y. Ellis, MS. 


Lincoln, with one hand on each hip and in a squat- 
ting position, cried, ' Ready.' Into the ring they 
toss their fowls, Bap's red rooster along with the 
rest. But no sooner had the little beauty discov- 
ered what was to be done than he dropped his tail 
and ran. The crowd cheered, while Bap. in disap- 
pointment picked him up and started away, losing 
his quarter and carrying home his dishonored fowl. 
Once arrived at the latter place he threw his pet 
down with a feeling of indignation and chagrin. 
The little fellow, out of sight of all rivals, mounted 
a wood pile and proudly flirting out his feathers, 
crowed with all his might. Bap. looked on in dis- 
gust. * Yes, you little cuss,' he exclaimed, irrever- 
ently, * you're great on dress parade, but not worth a 
d — n in a fight.' " It is said — how truthfully I do 
not know — that at some period during the late war 
Mr. Lincoln in conversation with a friend likened 
McClellan to Bap. McNabb's rooster. So much 
for New Salem sports. 

While wooing that jealous-eyed mistress, the 
law, Lincoln was earning no money. As another 
has said, " he had a running board bill to pay, and 
nothing to pay it with." By dint of sundry jobs 
here and there, helping Ellis in his store to-da}% 
splitting rails for James Short to-morrow, he man- 
aged to keep his head above the weaves. His 
friends were firm — no young man ever had truer or 
better ones — but he was of too independent a turn 
to appeal to them or complain of his condition. 
He never at any time abandoned the idea of be- 
coming a lawyer. That was always a spirit which 


beckoned him on in the darkest hour of his adver- 
sity. Someone, probably a Democrat who voted 
for him in the preceding fall, recommended him 
to John Calhoun, then surveyor of the county, as 
suitable material for an assistant. This office, in view 
of the prevailing speculation in lands and town lots, 
was the most important and possibly the most profi- 
table in the county. Calhoun, the incumbent, was 
a Yankee and a typical gentleman. He was brave, 
intellectual, self-possessed, and cultivated. He had 
been educated for the law, but never practiced 
much after coming to Illinois — taught school in 
preference. As an instructor he was the popular 
one of his day and age. I attended the school he 
taught when I was a boy, in Springfield, and was in 
later years clerk of the city under his administra- 
tion as Mayor. Lincoln, I know, respected and ad- 
mired him. After Lincoln's removal to Springfield 
they frequently held joint debates on political ques- 
tions. At one time I remember -they discussed the 
tariff question in the court house, using up the 
better part of two evenings in the contest. Cal- 
houn was polite, affable, and an honest debater, 
never dodging any question. This made him a 
formidable antagonist in argumentative controversy. 
I have heard Lincoln say that Calhoun gave him 
more trouble in his debates than Douglas ever did, 
because he was more captivating in his manner and 
a more learned man than Douglas. 

But to resume. The recommendation of Lin- 
coln's friends was sufficient to induce Calhoun to 
appoint him one of his deputies. At the time he 


received notice of his selection by Calhoun, Lincoln 
was out in the woods near New Salem splitting 
rails. A friend named Pollard Simmons, who still 
survives and has related the incident to me, walked 
out to the point where he was working with the 
cheering news. Lincoln, being a Whig and know- 
ing Calhoun's pronounced Democratic tendencies, 
enquired if he had to sacrifice any principle in ac- 
cepting the position. *' If I can be perfectly free 
in my political action I will take the office," he 
remarked ; *' but if my sentiments or even expres- 
sion of them is to be abridged in any way I would 
not have it or any other office. " A young man ham- 
pered by poverty as Lincoln was at this time, who 
had the courage to deal with public office as he did, 
was certainly made of unalloyed material. No 
wonder in after years when he was defeated by 
Douglas he could inspire his friends by the admoni- 
tion not to ''give up after one nor one hundred 
defeats. ' 

After taking service with Calhoun, Lincoln found 
he had but little if any practical knowledge of sur- 
veying—all that had to be learned. Calhoun fur- 
nished him with books, directing him to study them 
till he felt competent to begin work. He again 
invoked the assistance of Mentor Graham, the 
schoolmaster, who aided him in his efforts at calcu- 
lating the results of surveys and measurements. 
Lincoln was not a mathematician by nature, and 
hence, with him, learning meant labor. Graham's 
daughter is authority for the statement that her 
father and Lincoln frequently sat up till midnight 


engrossed in calculations, and only ceased when 
her mother drove them out after a fresh sup- 
ply of wood for the fire. Meanwhile Lincoln was 
keeping up his law studies. "■ He studied to see 
the subject-matter clearly," says Graham, "and to 
express it truly and strongly. I have known him 
to study for hours the best way of three to express 
an idea." He was so studious and absorbed in his 
application at one time, that his friends, according 
to a statement made by one "^ of them, '' noticed 
that he was so emaciated we feared he might 
bring on mental derangement." It was not 
long, however, until he had mastered surveying 
as a study, and then he was sent out to work by his 
superior — Calhoun. It has never been denied that 
his surveys were exact and just, and he was so mani- 
festly fair that he was often chosen to settle dis- 
puted questions of corners and measurements. It 
is worthy of note here that, with all his knowledge 
of lands and their value and the opportunities that 
lay open to him for profitable and safe investments, 
he never made use of the information thus obtained 
from of^cial sources, nor made a single speculation 
on his own account. The high value he placed on 
public office was more fully emphasized when as 
President, in answer to a delegation of gentlemen 
who called to press the claims of one of his warm 
personal friends for an important office, he declined 
on the ground that ''he did not regard it as just to 

* Henry McHcnry, MS., Oct. 5, 1865. 


the public to pay the debts of personal friendship 
with offices that belonged to the people." 

As surveyor under Calhoun he was sent for at 
one time to decide or locate a disputed corner for 
some persons in the northern part of the county. 
Amone others interested was his friend and admirer 
Henry McHenry. ** After a good deal of disputing 
we agreed," says the latter, "to send for Lincoln 
and to abide by his decision. He came with com- 
pass, flag-staff, and chain. He stopped with me 
three or four days and surveyed the whole section. 
When in the neighborhood of the disputed corner by 
actual survey he called for his staff and driving it 
in the ground at a certain spot said, ' Gentlemen, 
here is the corner.' We dug down into the ground 
at the point indicated and, lo ! there we found 
about six or eight inches of the original stake 
sharpened at the end, and beneath which was the 
usual piece of charcoal placed there by Rector the 
surveyor who laid the ground off for the govern- 
ment many years before." So fairly and well had 
the young surveyor done his duty that all parties 
went away completely satisfied. As late as 1865 the 
corner was preserved by a mark and pointed out to 
strangers as an evidence of the young surveyor's 
skill. Russell Godby, mentioned in the earlier 
pages of this chapter, presented to me a certificate of 
survey given to him by Lincoln. It was written Jan- 
nary 14, 1834, and is signed '' J. Calhoun, S. S. C, by 
A. Lincoln." " The survey was made by Lincoln," 
says Godby, '* and I gave him as pay for his work 
two buckskins, which Hannah Armstrong ' foxed ' 


on his pants so that the briers would not wear 
them out." 

Honors were now crowding thick and fast upon 
him. On May 7, 1833, ^^^ ^^^s commissioned post- 
master at New Salem, the first office he ever held 
under the Federal Government. The salary was 
proportionate to the amount of business done. 
Whether Lincoln solicited the appointment himself, 
or whether it was given him without the asking, I 
do not know ; but certain it is his " administration" 
gave general satisfaction. The mail arrived once a 
week, and we can imagine the extent of time and 
labor required to distribute it, Vv^hen it is known that 
•* he carried the office around in his hat." Mr. 
Lincoln used to tell me that when he had a call to 
go to the country to survey a piece of land, he 
placed inside his hat all the letters belonging to 
people in the neighborhood and distributed them 
along the way. He made head-quarters in Samuel 
Hill's store, and there the office may be said to have 
been located, as Hill himself had been postmaster 
before Lincoln. Between the revenue derived from 
the post-office and his income from land surveys 
Lincoln was, in the expressive language of the day, 
** getting along well enough." Suddenly, however, 
smooth sailing ceased and all his prospects of easy 
times ahead were again brought to naught. One 
Van Bergen brought suit against him and obtained 
judgment on one of the notes given in payment of 
the store debt — a relic of the unfortunate partner, 
ship with Berry. His personal effects were levied 
on and sold, his horse and surveying instruments 


going with the rest. But again a friend, one James 
Short, whose favor he had gained, interposed ; 
bought in the property and restored it to the hope- 
less young surveyor. It will be seen now what 
kind of friends Lincohi was gaining. The bonds 
he was thus making were destined to stand the 
severest of tests. His case never became so des- 
perate but a friend came out of the darkness to 
relieve him. 

There was always something about Lincoln in 
his earlier days to encourage his friends. He was 
not only grateful for whatever aid was given him, 
but he always longed to help some one else. He 
had an unfaihng disposition to succor the weak and 
the unfortunate, and was always, in his sympathy, 
struggling with the under dog in the f^ght. He 
was once overtaken when about fourteen miles from 
Springfield by one Chandler, whom he knew slightly, 
and who, having already driven twenty miles, was 
hastening to reach the land office before a certain 
other man who had gone by a different road. 
Chandler explained to Lincoln that he was poor 
and wanted to enter a small tract of land which 
adjoined his, that another man of considerable 
wealth had also determined to have it, and had 
mounted his horse and started for Springfield. 
" Meanwhile, my neighbors," continued Chandler, 
'' collected and advanced me the necessary one hun- 
dred dollars, and now, if I can reach the land office 
first, I can secure the land." Lincoln noticed that 
Chandler's horse was too much fatigued to stand 
fourteen miles more of a forced march, and he there- 


fore dismounted from his own and turned him 
over to Chandler, saying, '' Here's my horse — he is 
fresh and full of grit ; there's no time to be lost ; 
mount him and put him through. When you reach 
Springfield put him up at Herndon's tavern and I'll 
call and get him." Thus encouraged Chandler 
moved on, leaving Lincoln to follow on the jaded 
animal. He reached Springfield over an hour in 
advance of his rival and thus secured the coveted 
tract of land. By nightfall Lincoln rode leisurely 
into town and was met by the now radiant Chan- 
dler, jubilant over his success. Between the two a 
friendship sprang up which all the political discords 
of twenty-five years never shattered nor strained. 

About this time Lincoln began to extend some- 
what his system — if he really ever had a system in 
anything — of reading. He now began to read the 
writings of Paine, Volney, and Voltaire. A good 
deal of religious skepticism existed at New Salem, 
and there were frequent discussions at the store and 
tavern, in which Lincoln took part. What views he 
entertained on religious questions will be more 
fully detailed in another place. 

No little of Lincoln's influence with the men of 
New Salem can be attributed to his extraordinary 
feats of strength. By an arrangement of ropes and 
straps, harnessed about his hips, he was enabled one 
day at the mill to astonish a crowd of village celeb- 
rities by lifting a box of stones weighing near a 
thousand pounds. There is no fiction either, as sug- 
gested by some of his biographers, in the story that 
he lifted a barrel of whisky from the ground and 


drank from the bung ; but in performing this latter 
almost incredible feat he did not stand erect and 
elevate the barrel, but squatted down and lifted it 
to his knees, rolling it over until his mouth came 
opposite the bung. His strength, kindness of man- 
ner, love of fairness and justice, his original and 
unique sayings, his power of mimicry, his perse- 
verance — all made a combination rarely met with 
on the frontier. Nature had burnt him in her 
holy fire, and stamped him with the seal of her 

In the summer of 1834 Lincoln determined to 
make another race for the legislature; but this 
time he ran distinctly as a Whig. He made, it is 
presumed, the usual number of speeches, but as the 
art of newspaper reporting had not reached the 
perfection it has since attained, we are not favored 
with even the substance of his efforts on the stump. 
I have Lincoln's word for it that it was more of a 
hand-shaking campaign than anything else. Rowan 
Herndon relates that he came to his house during 
harvest, when there were a large number of men at 
work in the field. He was introduced to them, but 
they did not hesitate to apprize him of their esteem 
for a man who could labor ; and their admiration for 
a candidate for office was gauged somewhat by the 
amount of work he could do. Learning these facts, 
Lincoln took hold of a cradle, and handling it with 
ease and remarkable speed, soon distanced those 
who undertook to follow him. The men were satis- 
fied, and it is presumed he lost no votes in that 
crowd. One Dr. Barrett, seeing Lincoln, enquired 


of the latter's friends: ''Can't the party raise any 
better material than that?" but after hearing his 
speech the doctor's opinion was considerably al- 
tered, for he declared that Lincoln filled him with 
amazement ; " that he knew more than all of the 
other candidates put together." The election took 
place in August. Lincoln's friend, John T. Stuart^ 
was also a candidate on the legislative ticket. He 
encouraged Lincoln's canvas in every way, even at 
the risk of sacrificing his own chances. But both 
were elected. The four successful candidates were 
Dawson, who received 1390 votes,* Lincoln 1376, 
Carpenter 11 70, and Stuart 1164. 

At last Lincoln had been elected to the legislature, 
and by a very flattering majority. In order, as he 
himself said, " to make a decent appearance in the 
legislature," he had to borrow money to buy suit- 
able clothing and to maintain his new dignity. 
Coleman Smoot, one of his friends, advanced him 
''two hundred dollars, which he returned, relates 
the generous Smoot, according to promise." Here 
we leave our rising young statesman, to take up 
a different but very interesting period of his his- 

* In all former biographies of Lincoln, including the Nicolay and 
Hay history in the "Century Magazine," Dawson's vote is fixed at 
1370, and Lincoln is thereby made to lead the ticket ; but in the sec- 
ond issue of the Sangamon Journal after the election — August i6, 
1834 — the count is corrected, and Dawson's vote is increased to 1390. 
Dr. A. W. French, of Springfield, is the possessor of an official return 
of the votes cast at the New Salem precinct, made out in the hand- 
writing of Lincoln, which also gives Dawson's vote at 1390. 


Since the days when in Indiana Lincoln sat on 
the river's bank with little Kate Roby, dangling his 
bare feet in the water, there has been no hint in 
these pages of tender relations with any one of the 
opposite sex. Now we approach in timely order 
the ''grand passion" of his life — a romance of 
much reality, the memory of which threw a melan- 
choly shade over the remainder of his days. For 
the first time our hero falls in love. The courtship 
with Anne Rutledge and her untimely death form 
the saddest page in Mr. Lincoln's history. I am 
aware that most of his biographers have taken issue 
with me on this phase of Mr. Lincoln's life. 
Arnold says : '' The picture has been somewhat too 
highly colored, and the story made rather too 
tragic.'* Dr. Holland and others omit the subject 
altogether, while the most recent biography — the 
admirable history by my friends Nicolay and Hay. 
— devotes but five lines to it. I knew Miss Rut- 
ledge myself, as well as her father and other mem- 
bers of the family, and have been personally ac- 
quainted with every one of the score or more of 
witnesses whom I at one time or another inter- 
viewed on this delicate subject. From my own 
knowledge and the information thus obtained, I 
therefore repeat, that the memory of Anne Rut- 



ledge was the saddest chapter in Mr. Lincohi's 

James Rutledge, the father of this interesting 
girl, was one of the founders of New Salem, having 
come there from Kentucky in 1829. He was born 
in South CaroHna and belonged to the noted Rut- 
ledge family of that State. I knew him as early as 
1833, and have often shared the hospitality 'of his 
home. My father was a politician and an extensive 
stock dealer in that early day, and he and Mr. Rut- 
ledge were great friends. The latter was a man of 
no little force of character; thoi3e Avho knew him 
best loved him the most. Like other Southern peo- 
ple he was warm, — almost to impulsiveness, — social, 
and generous. His hospitality, an inherited qual- 
ity that flashed with him before he was born, 
developed by contact with the brave and broad- 
minded people whom he met in Illinois. Besides 
his business interests in the store and mill at New 
Salem, he kept the tavern where Lincoln came to 
board in 1833. His family, besides himself and 
wife, consisted of nine children, three of whom were 
born in Kentucky, the remaining six in Illinois. 
Anne, the subject of this chapter, was the third 
child. She was a beautiful girl, and by her win- 
ning ways attached people to her so firmly that she 
soon became the most popular young lady in the 
village. She was quick of apprehension, industri- 

* In a letter dated Dec. 4, 1866, one of Miss Rutledge's brothers 
writes: " When he first came to New Salem and up to the day of 
Anne's death Mr. Lincoln was all life and animation. He seemed to 
see the bright side of every picture." 


ous, and an excellent housekeeper. She had a 
moderate education, but was not cultured except 
by contrast with those around her. One of her 
strong points was her womanly skill. She was dex- 
terous in the use of the needle — an accomplishment 
of far more value in that day than all the acquire- 
ments of art in china painting and hammered brass 
are in this — and her needle-work was the wonder 
of the day. At every " quilting " Anne was a 
necessary adjunct, and her nimble fingers drove the 
needle more swiftly than anyone's else. Lincoln 
used to escort her to and from these quilting-bees, 
and on one occasion even went into the house — 
where men were considered out of place — and sat 
by her side as she worked on the quilt. 

He whispered into her ear the old, old story. 
Her heart throbbed and her soul was thrilled with 
a joy as old as the world itself. Her fingers 
momentarily lost their skill. In her ecstasy she 
made such irregular and uneven stitches that the 
older and more sedate women noted it, and the 
owner of the quilt, until a few years ago still re- 
taining it as a precious souvenir, pointed out the 
memorable stitches to such persons as visited her. 

L. M. Greene, who remembered Anne well, says, 
"She was amiable and of exquisite beauty, and her 
intellect was quick, deep, and philosophic as well as 
brilliant. She had a heart as gentle and kind as 
an angel, and full of love and sympathy. Her sweet 
and angelic nature was noted by every one who met 
her. She was a woman worthy of Lincoln's love." 
This is a little overstated as to beauty — Greene 


writes as if he too had been in love with her — but 
is otherwise nearly correct. 

*' Miss Rutledge," says a lady ^ who knew her, 
'* had auburn hair, blue eyes, fair complexion. 
She was pretty, slightly slender, but in everything 
a good hearted young woman. She was about five 
feet two inches high, and weighed in the neighbor- 
hood of a hundred and twenty pounds. She was 
beloved by all who knew her. She died as it were 
of grief. In speaking of her death and her grave 
Lincoln once said to me, *■ My heart lies buried 
there.' " 

Before narrating the details of Lincoln's courtship 
with Miss Rutledge, it is proper to mention briefly 
a few facts that occurred before their attachment be- 

About the same time that Lincoln drifted into 
New Salem there came in from the Eastern States 
John McNeil, a young man of enterprise and great 
activity, seeking his fortune in the West. He went 
to work at once, and \vithin a short time had accu- 
mulated by commendable effort a comfortable 
amount of property. Within three years he owned 
a farm, and a half interest with Samuel Hill in the 
leading store. He had good capacity for business, 
and was a valuable addition to that already preten- 
tious village — New Salem. It was while living at 
James Cameron's house that this plucky and indus- 
trious young business man first saw Anne Rut- 
ledge. At that time she was attending the school 

* Mrs. Hardin Bale. 



of Mentor Graham, a pedagogue of local renown 
whose name is frequently met with in these pages, 
and who flourished in and around New Salem from 
1829 to i860. McNeil fell deeply in love with the 
school-girl — she was then only seventeen — and paid 
her the usual unremitting attentions young lovers 
of that age had done before him and are still doing 
to-day. His partner in the store, Samuel Hill, a 
young man of equal force of character, who after- 
wards amassed a comfortable fortune, and also 
wielded no little influence as a local politician, laid 
siege to the heart of this same attractive maiden, 
but he yielded up the contest early. Anne rejected 
him, and he dropped from the race. McNeil had 
clear sailing from this time forward. He was 
acquiring property and money day by day. As one 
of the pioneers puts it, *' Men were honest then, 
and paid their debts at least once a year. The 
merchant surrounded by a rich country suffered lit- 
tle from competition. As he placed his goods on 
the shelf he added an advance of from seventy-five 
to one hundred and fifty per cent over cost price, 
and thus managed to get along." After '* manag- 
ing" thus for several years, McNeil, having disposed 
of his interest in the store to Hill, determined to 
return to New York, his native State, for a visit. 
He had accumulated up to this time, as near as we 
can learn, ten or possibly twelve thousand dollars. 
Before leaving he made to Anne a singular reve- 
lation. He told her the name McNeil was an 
assumed one ; that his real name was McNamar. 


"■\ left behind me in New York," he said, " my 
parents and brothers and sisters. They are poor, 
and were in more or less need when I left them in 
1829. I vowed that I would come West, make a 
fortune, and go back to help them. I am going to 
start now and intend, if I can, to bring them with 
me on my return to Illinois and place them on my 
farm." He expressed a sense of deep satisfaction 
in being able to clear up all mysteries which might 
have formed in the mind of her to whom he con- 
fided his love. He would keep nothing, he said, 
from her. They were engaged to be married, and 
she should know it all. The change of his name 
was occasioned by the fear that if the family in 
New York had known where he was they would 
have settled down on him, and before he could have 
accumulated any property would have sunk him 
beyond recovery. Now, however, he was in a con- 
dition to help them, and he felt overjoyed at the 
thought. As soon as the journey to New York 
could be made he would return. Once again in 
New Salem he and his fair one could consummate 
the great event to which they looked forward with 
undisguised joy and unbounded hope. Thus he 
explained to Anne the purpose of his journey — a 
story with some remarkable features, all of which 
she fully believed. 

''She would have believed it all the same if it had 
been ten times as incredible. A wise man would 
have rejected it with scorn, but the girl's instinct was 
a better guide, and McNamar proved to be all that 


he said he was, although poor Anne never saw the 
proof which others got of it."* 

At last McNamar, mounting an old horse that 
had participated in the Black Hawk war, began his 
journey. In passing through Ohio he became ill 
with a fever. For almost a month he was confined 
to his room, and a portion of the time was uncon- 
scious. As he approached a return to good health 
he grew nervous over the delay in his trip. He 
told no one around him his real name, destination, 
or business. He knew how his failure to write to 
New Salem would be construed, and the resulting 
irritation gave way to a feeling of desperation. In 
plainer language, he concluded it was '' all up with 
him now." Meanwhile a different view of the mat- 
ter was taken by Miss Rutledge. Her friends 
encouraged the idea of cruel desertion. The 
change of McNeil to McNamar had wrought in 
their minds a change of sentiment. Some con- 
tended that he had undoubtedly committed a crime 
in his earlier days, and for years had rested secure 
from apprehension under the shadow of an assumed 
name; while others with equal assurance whispered 
in the unfortunate girl's ear the old story of a rival 
in her affections. Anne's lady friends, strange to 
relate, did more to bring about a discordant feeling 
than all others. Women are peculiar creatures. 
They love to nettle and mortify one another ; and 
when one of their own sex has fallen, how little 
sympathy they seem to have ! But under all this 

* Lamon, p. 161. 


fire, in the face of all these insidious criticisms, Anne 
remained firm. She had faith, and bided her time. 

McNamar, after much vexatious delay, finally 
reached his birthplace in New York, finding 
his father in the decline of years and health. 
He provided for his immediate needs, and by his 
assiduous attentions undertook to atone for the 
years of his neglect ; but all to no purpose. The 
old gentleman gradually faded from the world, 
and early one winter morning crossed the great 
river. McNamar was thus left to settle up the 
few unfinished details of his father's estate, and to 
provide for the pressing needs of the family. His 
detention necessitated a letter to Anne, explaining 
the nature and cause of the delay. Other letters 
followed ; but each succeeding one growing less 
ardent in tone, and more formal in phraseology than 
its predecessor, Anne began to lose faith. Had 
his love gradually died away like the morning wind ? 
was a question she often asked herself. She had 
stood firm under fire before, but now her heart grew 
sick with hope deferred. At last the correspondence 
ceased altogether. 

At this point we are favored with the Introduc- 
tion of the ungainly Lincoln, as a suitor for the 
hand of Miss Rutledge. Lincoln had learned of 
McNamar's strange conduct, and conjecturing 
that all the silken ties that bound the two 
together had been sundered, ventured to step in 
himself. He had seen the young lady when a mere 
girl at Mentor Graham's school, and he, no doubt, 
then had formed a high opinion of her qualities. 


But he was too bashful, as his friend Ellis declares, 
to tell her of it. No doubt, when he began to pay 
her attentions she was the most attractive young 
lady whom up to that time he had ever met. She 
was not only modest and winning in her ways, and 
full of good, womanly common-sense, but withal re- 
fined, in contrast with the uncultured people who 
surrounded both herself and Lincoln. '' She had a 
secret, too, and a sorrow, — the unexplained and 
painful absence of McNamar, — which, no doubt, 
made her all the more interesting to him whose 
spirit was often even more melancholy than her 

In after years, McNamar himself, describing her 
to me, said : " Miss Rutledge was a gentle, amiable 
maiden, without any of the airs of your city belles, 
but winsome and comely withal; a blonde in com- 
plexion, with golden hair, cherry-red lips, and a 
bonny blue eye. As to her literary attainments, she 
undoubtedly was as classic a scholar as Mr Lincoln. 
She had at the time she met him, I believe, at- 
tended a literary institution at Jacksonville, in com- 
pany with her brother." 

McNamar seems to have considered Lincoln's 
bashfulness as proof against the alluring charms of 
Miss Rutledge or anybody else, for he continues : 

** Mr. Lincoln was not to my knowledge paying 
particular attention to any of the young ladies of 
my acquaintance when I left for my home in New 
York. There was no rivalry between us on that 
score ; on the contrary, I had every reason to believe 
him my warm, personal friend. But by-and-by I 


was left so far behind in the race I did not deem my 
chances worthy of notice. From this time forward 
he made rapid strides to that imperishable fame 
which justly fills a world." 

Lincoln began to court Miss Rutledge in dead 
earnest. Like David Copperfield, he soon realized 
that he was in danger of becoming deeply in love, and 
as he approached the brink of the pit he trembled 
lest he should indeed fall in. As he pleaded and 
pressed his cause the Rutledges and all New Salem 
encouraged his suit. McNamar's unexplained ab- 
sence and apparent neglect furnished outsiders 
with all the arguments needed to encourage Lincoln 
and convince Anne. Although the attachment was 
growing and daily becoming an intense and mutual 
passion, the young lady remained firm and almost 
inflexible. She was passing through another fire. 
A long struggle with her feelings followed ; but at 
length the inevitable moment came. She consented 
to have Lincoln, provided he gave her time to write 
to McNamar and obtain his release from her pledge. 
The slow-moving mails carried her tender letter to 
New York. Days and weeks — which to the ardent 
Lincoln must have seemed painfully long — passed, 
but the answer never came. In a half-hearted way 
she turned to Lincoln, and her looks told him that 
he had won. She accepted his proposal. Now 
that they were engaged he told her what she already 
knew, that he was poverty itself. She must grant 
him time to gather up funds to live on until he had 
completed his law studies. After this trifling delay 
" nothing on God's footstool," argued the em- 


phatic lover, could keep them apart. To this the 
thoughtful Anne consented. To one of her 
brothers, she said : " As soon as his studies are com- 
pleted we are to be married." But the ghost of 
another love would often rise unbidden before her. 
Within her bosom raged the conflict which finally 
undermined her health. Late in the summer she 
took to her bed. A fever was burning in her head. 
Day by day she sank, until all hope was banished. 
During the latter days of her sickness, her physician 
had forbidden visitors to enter her room, prescribing 
absolute quiet. But her brother relates that she 
kept enquiring for Lincoln so continuously, at times 
demanding to see him, that the family at last sent 
for him. On his arrival at her bedside the door was 
closed and he was left alone with her. What was 
said, what vows and revelations were made during 
this sad interview, were known only to him and the 
dying girl. A few days afterward she became un- 
conscious and remained so until her death on the 
25th day of August, 1835. She was buried in what 
is known as the Concord grave-yard, about seven 
miles north-west of the town of Petersburg.* 

The most astonishing and sad sequel to this court- 

*" I have heard mother say that Anne would frequently sing for 
Lincoln's benefit. She had a clear, ringing voice. Early in her ill- 
ness he called, and she sang a hymn for which he always expressed 
a great preference. It begins : 

' Vain man, thy fond pursuits forbear.' 

You will find it in one of the standard hymn-books. It was like- 
wise the last thing she ever sung." — Letter, John M. Rutledge, 
MS., Nov. 25, 1S66. 


ship was the disastrous effect of Miss Rutledge's 
death on Mr. Lincoln's mind. It operated strangely 
on one of his calm and stoical make-up. As he re- 
turned from the visit to the bedside of Miss Rut- 
ledge, he stopped at the house of a friend, who re- 
lates that his face showed signs of no little mental 
agony. ** He was very much distressed," is the 
language of this friend, ** and I was not surprised 
when it was rumored subsequently that his rea- 
son was in danger." One of Miss Rutledge's 
brothers* says: ** The effect upon Mr. Lincoln's 
mind was terrible. He became plunged in despair, 
and many of his friends feared that reason would 
desert her throne. His extraordinary emotions 
were regarded as strong evidence of the existence 
of the tenderest relations between himself and the 
deceased." The truth is Mr. Lincoln was strangely 
wrought up over the sad ending of the affair. He 
had fits of great mental depression, and wandered 
up and down the river and into the woods woefully 
abstracted — at times in the deepest distress. If, 
when we read what the many credible persons who 
knew him at the time tell us, we do not con- 
clude that he was deranged, we must admit that 
he walked on that sharp and narrow line which di- 
vides sanity from insanity. To one friend he com- 
plained that the thought " that the snows and rains 
fall upon her grave filled him with indescribable 
grief." f He was watched with especial vigilance 

* R. B. Rutledge, MS., letter, Oct. 21, 1866. 
t Letter, Wm. Greene, MS., May 29, i865. 


during damp, stormy days, under the belief that 
dark and gloomy weather might produce such a de- 
pression of spirits as to induce him to take his own 
life. His condition finally became so alarming, his 
friends consulted together and sent him to the 
house of a kind friend, Bowlin Greene, who lived 
in a secluded spot hidden by the hills, a mile south 
of town. Here he remained for some weeks under 
the care and ever watchful eye of this noble friend, 
who gradually brought him back to reason, or at 
least a realization of his true condition. In the 
years that followed Mr. Lincoln never forgot the 
kindness of Greene through those weeks of suffer- 
ing and peril. In 1842, when the latter died, and 
Lincoln was selected by the Masonic lodge to de- 
liver the funeral oration, he broke down in the midst 
of his address. '* His voice was choked with deep 
emotion ; he stood a few moments while his lips 
quivered in the effort to form the words of fervent 
praise he sought to utter, and the tears ran down 
his yellow and shrivelled cheeks. Every heart was 
hushed at the spectacle. After repeated efforts he 
found it impossible to speak, and strode away, bit- 
terly sobbing, to the widow's carriage and was 
driven from the scene." 

It was shortly after this that Dr. Jason Duncan 
placed in Lincoln's hands a poem called ** Immor- 
tality." The piece starts out with the line, " Oh ! 
why should the spirit of mortal be proud." Lin- 
coln's love for this poem has certainly made it im- 
mortal. He committed these lines to memory, and 
any reference to or mention of Miss Rutledge 


would suggest them, as if "to celebrate a grief 
which lay with continual heaviness on his heart." 
There is no question that from this time forward 
Mr. Lincoln's spells of melancholy became more 
intense than ever. In fact a tinge of this desper- 
ate feeling of sadness followed him to Springfield. 
He himself was somewhat superstitious about it, 
and in 1840-41 wrote to Dr. Drake, a celebrated 
physician in Cincinnati, describing his mental condi- 
tion in a long letter. Dr. Drake responded, saying 
substantially, *' I cannot prescribe in your case 
without a personal interview." Joshua F. Speed, 
to whom Lincoln showed the letter addressed to 
Dr. Drake, writing to me from Louisville, Novem- 
ber 30, 1866, says : " I think he (Lincoln) must have 
informed Dr. Drake of his early love for Miss 
Rutledge, as there was a part of the letter which he 
would not read." It is shown by the declaration 
of Mr. Lincoln himself made to a fellow member* 
of the Legislature within two years after Anne 
Rutledge's death that " although he seemed to 
others to enjoy life rapturously, yet when alone 
he was so overcome by mental depression he never 
dared to carry a pocket knife." 

It may not be amiss to suggest before I pass 
from mention of McNamar that, true to his prom- 
ise, he drove into New Salem in the fall of 1835 
with his mother and brothers and sisters. They 
had come through from New York in a wagon, with 
all their portable goods. Anne Rutledge had 

* Robert L. Wilson, MS., letter, Feb. 10, 1866 


meanwhile died, and McNamar could only muse in 
silence over the fading visions of ''what might have 
been." On his arrival he met Lincoln, who, with 
the memory of their mutual friend, now dead, con- 
stantly before him, " seemed desolate and sorely 
distressed." The little acre of ground in Concord 
cemetery contained the form of his first love, rudely 
torn from him, and the great world, throbbing with 
life but cold and heartless, lay spread before him. 



Before taking up an account of Lincoln's entry 
into the Legislature, which, following strictly the 
order of time, properly belongs here, I beg to di- 
gress long enough to narrate what I have gathered 
relating to another courtship — an affair of the heart 
which culminated in a sequel as amusing as the one 
with Anne Rutledge was sad. I experienced much 
difficulty in obtaining the particulars of this court- 
ship. After no little effort I finally located and 
corresponded with the lady participant herself, who 
in 1866 furnished me with Lincoln's letters and her 
own account of the affair, requesting the suppres- 
sion of her name and residence. Since then, how- 
ever, she has died, and her children have not only 
consented tp a publication of the history, but have 
furnished me recently with more facts and an ex- 
cellent portrait of their mother made shortly after 
her refusal of Lincoln's hand. 

Mary S. Owens — a native of Green county, Ken- 
tucky, born September 29, 1808 — first became ac- 
quainted with Lincoln while on a visit to a sister, 
the wife of Bennet Able, an early settler in the coun- 
try about New Salem. Lincoln was a frequent vis- 
itor at the house of Able, and a warm friend of the 
family. During the visit of Miss Owens in 1833, 



though only remaining a month, she lingered 
long enough to make an impression on Lincoln ; 
but returned to Kentucky and did not reappear in 
New Salem till 1836. Meanwhile Anne Rutledge 
had died, and Lincoln's eyes began to wander after 
the dark-haired visitor from Kentucky. Miss 
Owens differed from Miss Rutledge in early educa- 
tion and the advantages of wealth. She had re- 
ceived an excellent education, her father being one 
of the wealthiest and most influential men of his 
time and locality. A portion of her schooling was 
obtained in a Catholic convent, though in religious 
faith she was a Baptist. According to a description 
furnished me by herself she ** had fair skin, deep 
blue eyes, and dark curling hair; height five feet, 
five inches; weight about a hundred and fifty 
pounds." She was good-looking in girlhood ; by 
many esteemed handsome, but became fleshier as 
she grew older. At the time of her second visit 
she reached New Salem on the day of the Presiden- 
tial election, passing the polls where the men had 
congregated, on the way to her sister's house. One 
man in the crowd who saw her then was impressed 
with her beauty. Years afterwards, in relating the 
incident, ^ he wrote me : 

" She was tall, portly, had large blue eyes and the 
finest trimmings I ever saw. She was jovial, social, 
loved wit and humor, had a liberal English educa- 
tion, and was considered wealthy. None of the 
poets or romance writers have ever given us a pict- 
ure of a heroine so beautiful as a good description 
of Miss Owens in 1836 would be." 

* L. M. Greene. 


A lady friend * says she was " handsome, truly 
handsome, matronly-looking, over ordinary size in 
height and weight." 

A gentleman f who saw her a few years before her 
death describes her as " a nervous, muscular woman, 
very intellectual, with a forehead massive and angu- 
lar, square, prominent, and broad." 

At the time of her advent into the society of New 
Salem she was polished in her manners, pleasing in 
her address, and attractive in many ways. She had 
a little dash of coquetry in her intercourse with 
that class of young men w^ho arrogated to them- 
selves claims of superiority, but she never yielded to 
this disposition to an extent that would willingly 
lend encouragement to an honest suitor sincerely 
desirous of securing her hand, when she felt she 
could not in the end yield to a proposal of marriage 
if he should make the offer. She was a good con- 
versationalist and a splendid reader, very few per- 
sons being found to equal her in this accomplish- 
ment. She w^as light-hearted and cheery in her 
disposition, kind and considerate for those with 
whom she was thrown in contact. 

One of Miss Owens' descendants is authority for 
the statement that Lincoln had boasted that *' if 
Mary Owens ever returned to Illinois a second time 
he would marry her; " that a report of this came to 
her ears, whereupon she left her Kentucky home 
with a pre-determination to show him if she met 

* Mrs. Hardin Bale. t Johnson G. Greene. 


him that she was not to be caught simply by the 
asking. On this second visit Lincoln paid her 
more marked attention than before, and his affec- 
tions became more and more enlisted in her behalf. 
During the earlier part of their acquaintance, fol- 
lowing the natural bent of her temperament she 
was pleasing and entertaining to him. Later on he 
discovered himself seriously interested in the blue- 
eyed Kentuckian, whom he had really under-esti- 
mated in his preconceived opinions of her. In the 
meantime she too had become interested, having 
discovered the sterling qualities of the young man 
who was paying her such devoted attention ; yet 
while she admired she did not love him. He was 
ungainly and angular in his physical make-up, and 
to her seemed deficient in the nicer and more deli- 
cate attentions which she felt to be due from the 
man whom she had pictured as an ideal husband. 
He had given her to understand that she had 
greatly charmed him; but he was not himself 
certain that he could make her the husband with 
whom he thought she would be most happy. Later 
on by word and letter he told her so. His honesty 
of purpose showed itself in all his efforts to win her 
hand. He told her of his poverty, and while advis- 
ing her that life with him meant to her who had 
been reared in comfort and plenty, great privation 
and sacrifice, yet he wished to secure her as a wife. 
She, however, felt that she did not entertain for him 
the same feeling that he professed for her and that 
she ought to entertain before accepting him, and so 
declined his offer. Judging from his letters alone 


it has been supposed by some that she, remember- 
ing the rumor she had heard of his determination 
to marry her, and not being fully certain of the 
sincerity of his purposes, may have purposely left 
him in the earlier stages of his courtship somewhat 
in uncertainty. Later on, however, when by his 
manner and repeated announcement to her that his 
hand and heart were at her disposal, he demon- 
strated the honesty and sincerity of his intentions, 
she declined his offer kindly but with no uncertain 

The first letter I received from Mrs. Vineyard — 
for she was married to Jesse Vineyard, March 27, 
1 841 — was written at Weston, Mo., May I, 1866. 
Among other things she says: ''After quite a 
struggle wdth my feelings I have at last decided to 
send you the letters in my possession written by 
Mr. Lincoln, believing as I do that you are a gen- 
tleman of honor and will faithfully abide by all 
you have said. My associations with your lamented 
friend were in Menard county whilst visiting a 
sister who then resided near Petersburg. I have 
learned that my maidefi name is now in your pos- 
session ; and you have ere this, no doubt, been in- 
formed that I am a native Kentuckian." 

The letters written by Lincoln not revealing 
enough details of the courtship, I prepared a list of 
questions for the lady to answer in order that the 
entire history of their relations might be clearly 
shown. I perhaps pressed her too closely in such a 
delicate matter, for she responded in a few days as 
follows : 

Mary S. Owens. 

From a daguerreotype loaiied by her son. 


"Weston, Mo., May 22, 1866. 
" Mr. W. H. Herndon, 

"My Dear Sir: Really, you catechise me in 
true lawyer style ; but I feel you will have the 
goodness to excuse me if I decline answering all 
your questions in detail, being well assured that few 
women would have ceded as much as I have under 
all the circumstances. 

" You say you have heard why our acquaintance 
terminated as it did. I too have heard the same 
bit of gossip ; but I never used the remark which 
Madame Rumor says I did to Mr. Lincoln. I think 
I did on one occasion say to my sister, who was 
very anxious for us to be married, that I thought 
Mr. Lincoln was deficient in those little links which 
make up the chain of woman's happiness — at least 
it was so in my case. Not that I believed it pro- 
ceeded from a lack of goodness of heart; but his 
training had been different from mine ; hence there 
was not that congeniality which would otherwise 
have existed. 

** From his own showing you perceive that his 
heart and hand were at my disposal ; and I suppose 
that my feelings were not sufficiently enlisted to 
have the matter consummated. About the begin- 
ning of the year 1838 I left Illinois, at which time 
our acquaintance and correspondence ceased, with- 
out ever again being renewed. 

** My father, who resided in Green county, Ken- 
tucky, was a gentleman of considerable means ; and 
I am persuaded that few persons placed a higher 
estimate on education than he did. 

" Respectfully yours, 

- '• Mary S. Vineyard." 

The reference to Lincoln's deficiency '' in those 
little links which make up the chain of woman's 
happiness" is of no little significance It proved 


that his training had indeed been different from 
hers. In a short time I again wrote Mrs. Vineyard 
to enquire as to the truth of a story current in New 
Salem, that one day as she and Mrs. Bowlin Greene 
were cHmbing up the hill to Abie's house they 
were joined by Lincoln ; that Mrs. Greene was 
obliged to carry her child, a fat baby boy, to the 
summit ; that Lincoln strolled carelessly along, 
offering no assistance to the woman who bent 
under the load. Thereupon Miss Owens, censuring 
him for his neglect, reminded him that in her 
estimation he would not make a good husband. In 
due time came her answer: 

"Weston, Mo., July 22, 1866. 
"Mr. W. H. Herndon: 

"Dear Sir: I do not think you are pertina- 
cious in asking the question relative to old Mr^ 
Bowlin Greene, because I wish to set you right on 
that question. Your information, no doubt, came 
through my cousin, Mr. Gaines Greene, who visited 
us last winter. Whilst here, he was laughing at me 
about Mr. Lincoln, and among other things spoke 
about the circumstance in connection with Mrs. 
Greene and child. My impression is now that I 
tacitly admitted it, for it was a season of trouble 
with me, and I gave but little heed to the matter. 
We never had any hard feelings towards each other 
that I know of. On no occasion did I say to Mr. 
Lincoln that I did not believe he would make a 
kind husband, because he did not tender his ser- 
vices to Mrs. Greene in helping of her carry her 
babe. As I said to you in a former letter, I 
thought him lacking in smaller attentions. One 
circumstance presents itself just now to my mind's 
eye. There was a company of us going to Uncle 



Billy Greene's. Mr. Lincoln was riding with me, 
and we had a very bad branch to cross. The other 
gentlemen were very officious in seeing that their 
partners got safely over. We were behind, he 
riding in, never looking back to see how I got 
along. When I rode up beside him, I remarked, 

* You are a nice fellow ! I suppose you did not care 
whether my neck was broken or not.' He laugh- 
ingly replied (I suppose by way of compliment), that 
he knew I was plenty smart to take care of my- 

** In many things he was sensitive almost to a 
fault. He told me of an incident : that he was 
crossing a prairie one day and saw before him, ' a 
hog mired down,* to use his own language. He 
was rather * fixed up,* and he resolved that he would 
pass on without looking at the shoat. After he 
had gone by, he said the feeling was irresistible ; 
and he had to look back, and the poor thing seemed 
to say wistfully, ' There now, my last hope is gone;' 
that be deliberately got down and relieved it from 
its difficulty. 

*' In many things we were congenial spirits. In 
politics we saw eye to eye, though since then we 
differed as widely as the South is from the North. 
But methinks I hear you say, ' Save me from a 
political woman ! ' So say I. 

"The last message I ever received from him was 
about a year after we parted in Illinois. Mrs. Able 
visited Kentucky, and he said to her in Springfield, 

* Tell your sister that I think she was a great fool 
because she did not stay here and marry me.* 
Characteristic of the man ! 

"Respectfully vours, 

" Mary S. Vineyard." 

We have thus been favored with the lady's side 
of this case, and it is but fair that we should hear 


the testimony of her honest but ungainly suitor. 
Fortunately for us and for history we have his view 
of the case in a series of letters which have been 
preserved with zealous care by the lady's family.^ 
The first letter was written from Vandalia, Decem- 
ber 13, 1836, where the Legislature to which he 
belonged was in session. After reciting the 
progress of legislation and the flattering prospect 
that then existed for the removal of the seat of 
government to Springfield, he gets down to personal 
matters by apprising her of his illness for a few 
days, coupled with the announcement that he is 
mortified by daily trips to the post-office in quest 
of her letter, which it seemed never would arrive. 
*'You see," he complains, ** I am mad about that 
old letter yet. 1 don't like to risk 3'ou again. I'll 
try you once more, anyhow." Further along in 
the course of the missive, he says: " You recollect, 
I mentioned at the outset of this letter, that I had 
been unwell. That is the fact, though I believe I 
am about well now ; but that, with other things I 
cannot account for, have conspired, and have gotten 
my spirits so low that I feel that I would rather 
be in any place in the world than here. I really 
cannot endure the thought of staying here ten 
weeks. Write back as soon as you get this, and if 
possible, say something that will please me; for 
really, I have not been pleased since I left you. 

* The copies of these letters were carefully made by Mr. Weik 
from the originals, now in the possession of B. R. Vineyard, St. 
Joseph, Mo. 


This letter is so dry and stupid," he mournfully 
concludes, ** that I am ashamed to send it, but with 
my pHesent feelings I cannot do any better." 

After the adjournment of the Legislature he 
returned to Springfield, from which point it was a 
matter of easy driving to reach New Salem, where 
his lady-love was sojourning, and where he could 
pay his addresses in person. It should be borne in 
mind that he had by this time removed to Spring- 
field, the county seat, and entered on the practice of 
the law. In the gloom resulting from lack of funds, 
and the dim prospect for business, he found time to 
communicate with the friend whose case was con- 
stantly uppermost in his mind. Here is one char- 
acteristic letter: 

"Springfield, May 7, 1837. 
Friend Mary : 

'' I have commenced two letters to send you 
before this, both of which displeased me before I 
got half done, and so I tore them up. The first I 
thought wasn't serious enough, and the second was 
on the other extreme. I shall send this, turn out 
as it may. 

*' This thing of living in Springfield is rather a dull 
business after all — at least it is so to me. I am 
quite as lonesome here as [I] ever was anywhere in 
my life. I have been spoken to by but one woman 
since I've been here, and should not have been by 
her if she could have avoided it. I've never been" 
to church yet, and probably shall not be soon. I 
stay away because I am conscious I should not 
know how to behave myself. I am often think- 
ing of what we said of your coming to live at 
Springfield. I am afraid you would not be satis- 

144 ^-^-^^ L^^^ ^^ LINCOLN. 

fied. There is a great deal of flourishing about in 
carriages here, which it would be your doom 
to see without sharing in it. You would have to 
be poor without the means of hiding your poverty. 
Do you believe you could bear that patiently ? 
Whatever woman may cast her lot with mine, 
should anyone ever do so, it is my intention to do 
all in my power to make her happy and contented, 
and there is nothing I can imagine that would make 
me more unhappy than to fail in the effort. I 
know I should be much happier with you than 
the way I am, provided I saw no signs of discon- 
tent in you. 

'* What you have said to me may have been in 
jest or I may have misunderstood it. If so, then 
let it be forgotton ; if otherwise I much wish you 
would think seriously before you decide. For my 
part I have already decided. What I have said I 
will most positively abide by, provided you wish it. 
My opinion is you had better not do it. You have 
not been accustomed to hardship, and it may be 
more severe than you imagine. I know you are 
capable of thinking correctly on any subject ; and 
if you deliberate maturely upon this before you 
decide, then I am willing to abide your decision. 

''You must write me a good long letter after you 
get this. You have nothing else to do, and though 
it might not seem interesting to you after you have 
written it, it would be a good deal of company in 
this busy wilderness. Tell your sister I don't want 
to hear any more about selling out and moving. 
That gives me the hypo whenever I think of it. 

'* Yours, etc. 
*' Lincoln." 

Very few if any men can be found who in fond 
pursuit of their love would present their case 
voluntarily in such an unfavorable light. In one 


breath he avows his affection for the lady whose 
image is constantly before him, and in the next 
furnishes her reasons why she ought not to marry 
him ! During the warm, dry summer months he 
kept up the siege without apparent diminution of 
zeal. He was as assiduous as ever, and in August 
was anxious to force a decision. On the i6th he had 
a meeting with her which terminated much like 
a drawn battle — at least it seems to have afforded 
him but little encouragement, for on his return to 
Springfield he immediately indulged in an epistolary 
effusion stranger than any that preceded it. 

" Friend Mary: 

*' You will no doubt think it rather strange that I 
should write you a letter on the same day on which 
we parted ; and I can only account for it by sup- 
posing that seeing you lately makes me think of 
you more than usual, while at our late meeting we 
had but few expressions of thoughts. You must 
know that I cannot see you or think of you with 
entire indifference ; and yet it may be that you are 
mistaken in regard to what my real feelings towards 
you are. If I knew you were not, 1 should not 
trouble you with this letter. Perhaps any other 
man would know enough without further informa- 
tion, but I consider it my peculiar right to plead 
ignorance and your bounden duty to allow the plea. 

*' I want in all cases to do right ; and most particu- 
larly so in all cases with women. I want, at this 
particular time, more than anything else, to do 
right with you, and if I knew it would be doing 
right, as I rather suspect it would, to let you alone, I 
would do it. And for the purpose of making the 
matter as plain as possible, I now say, that you can 
now drop the subject, dismiss your thoughts (if you 


ever had any) from me forever, and leave this letter 
unanswered, without calling forth one accusing mur- 
mur from me. And I will even go farther, and say, 
that if it will add anything to your comfort or 
peace of mind to do so, it is my sincere wish that 
you should. Do not understand by this that I wish 
to cut your acquaintance. I mean no such thing. 
What I do wish is that our further acquaintance 
shall depend upon yourself. If such further ac- 
quaintance would contribute nothing to your happi- 
ness, I am sure it would not to mine. If you feel 
yourself in any degree bound to me, I am now will- 
ing to release you, provided you wish it ; while, on 
the other hand, I am willing and even anxious to 
bind you faster if I can be convinced that it will 
in any considerable degree add to your happiness. 
This, indeed, is the whole question with me. Noth- 
ing would make me more miserable, nothing more 
happy, than to know you were so. 

" In what I have now said, I think I cannot be 
misunderstood ; and to make myself understood is 
the sole object of this letter. 

" If it suits you best to not answer this — farewell 
— a long life and a merry one attend you. But if 
you conclude to write back, speak as plainly as I do. 
There can be neither harm nor danger in saying 
to me anything you think, just in the manner you 
think it. 

** My respects to your sister. 

** Your friend, 

*' Lincoln." 

For an account of the final outcome of this 
affaire dti cceur the reader is now referred to the 
most ludicrous letter Mr. Lincoln ever wrote. It 
has been said, but with how much truth I do not 
know, that during his term as President the lady to 


whom it was written — Mrs. O. H. Browning, wife of 
a fellow-member of the Legislature — before giving 
a copy of it to a biographer, wrote to Lincoln asking 
his consent to the publication, but that he answered 
warning her against it because it was too full of 
truth. The only biographer who ever did insert it 
apologized for its appearance in his book, regarding 
it for many reasons as an extremely painful duty. 
"If it could be withheld," he laments, ''and the 
act decently reconciled to the conscience of a biog- 
rapher* professing to be honest and candid, it 
should never see the light in these pages. Its gro- 
tesque humor, its coarse exaggerations in describing 
the person of a lady whom the writer was willing to 
marry ; its imputation of toothless and weather- 
beaten old age to a woman really young and hand- 
some ; its utter lack of that delicacy of tone and 
sentiment which one naturally expects a gentleman 
to adopt when he thinks proper to discuss the 
merits of his late mistress — all these, and its defec- 
tive orthography, it would certainly be more agree- 
able to suppress than to publish. But if we begin 
by omitting or mutilating a document which sheds 
so broad a light upon one part of his life and one 
phase of his character, why may we not do the like 
as fast and as often as the temptation arises ? and 
where shall the process cease?" 

I prefer not to take such a serious view of the 
letter or its publication. My idea is, that Mr. 
Lincoln got into one of his irresistible moods of 
humor and fun — a state of feeling into which he 

* Lamon, p. i8i. 


frequently worked himself to avert the overwhelm- 
ing effects of his constitutional melancholy — and in 
the inspiration of the moment penned this letter, 
which many regard as an unfortunate composition. 
The class who take such a gloomy view of the 
matter should bear in mind that the letter was 
written by Mr. Lincoln in the fervor of early man- 
hood, just as he was emerging from a most embar- 
rassing situation, and addressed to a friend who, he 
supposed, would keep it sacredly sealed from the 
public eye. As a matter of fact Mr. Lincoln was 
not gifted with a ready perception of the propriety 
of things in all cases. Nothing with him was 
intuitive. To have profound judgment and just 
discrimination he required time to think ; and if 
facts or events were forced before him in too rapid 
succession the machinery of his judgment failed to 
work. A knowledge of this fact will account for 
the letter, and also serve to rob the offence — if any 
was committed— of half its severity. 

The letter was written in the same month Miss 
Owens made her final departure from Illinois. 

''Springfield, April i, 1838. 
*' Dear Madam : — 

** Without apologizing for being egotistical, I 
shall make the history of so much of my life as 
has elapsed since I saw you the subject of this 
letter. And, by the way, I now discover that, in 
order to give a full and intelligible account of the 
things I have done and suffered since I saw you, I 
shall necessarily have to relate some that happened 

" It was, then, in the autumn of 1836 that a mar- 


ried lady of my acquaintance and who was a great 
friend of mine, being about to pay a visit to her 
father and other relatives residing in Kentucky, 
proposed to me that on her return she would bring 
a sister of hers with her on condition that I would 
engage to become her brother-in-law with all con- 
venient despatch. I, of course, accepted the pro- 
posal, for you know I could not have done other- 
wise, had I really been averse to it ; but privately, 
between you and me I was most confoundedly well 
pleased with the project. I had seen the said sister 
some three years before, thought her intelligent 
and agreeable, and saw no good objection to plod- 
ding life through hand in hand with her. Time 
passed on, the lady took her journey, and in due 
time returned, sister in company sure enough. This 
astonished me a little; for it appeared to me that 
her coming so readily showed that she was a trifle 
too willing ; but, on reflection, it occurred to me 
that she might have been prevailed on by her mar- 
ried sister to come, without anything concerning 
me ever having been mentioned to her ; and so I 
concluded that, if no other objection presented 
itself, I would consent to waive this. All this 
occurred to me on hearing of her arrival in the 
neighborhood; for, be it remembered, I had not yet 
seen her, except about three years previous, as 
above mentioned. In a few days we had an inter- 
view ; and, although I had seen her before, she did 
not look as my imagination had pictured her. I 
knew she was over-size, but she now appeared a fair 
match for Falstaff. I knew she was called an ' old 
maid,' and I felt no doubt of the truth of at least 
half of the appellation ; but now, when I beheld her, 
I eould not for my life avoid thinking of my 
mother ; and this, not from withered features, for 
her skin was too full of fat to permit of its contract- 
ing into wrinkles, but from her want of teeth, 


weather-beaten appearance in general, and from a 
kind of notion that ran in my head that nothing 
could have commenced at the size of infancy and 
reached her present bulk in less than thirty-five or 
forty years ; and, in short, I was not at all pleased 
with her. But what could I do ? I had told her 
sister I would take her for better or for worse ; and 
I made a point of honor and conscience in all things 
to stick to my word, especially if others had been 
induced to act on it, which in this case I had no 
doubt they had ; for I was now fairly convinced 
that no other man on earth would have her, and 
hence the conclusion that they were bent on hold- 
ing me to my bargain. * Well,' thought I, ' I have 
said it, and, be the consequences what they may, it 
shall not be my fault if I fail to do it.' At once I 
determined to consider her my wife; and, this done, 
all my powers of discovery were put to work in 
search of perfections in her which might be fairly 
set off against her defects. I tried to imagine her 
handsome, which, but for her unfortunate corpu- 
lency, was actually true. Exclusive of this, no 
woman that I have ever seen has a finer face. I 
also tried to convince m}'self that the mind was 
much more to be valued than the person ; and in 
this she was not inferior, as I could discover, to any 
with whom I had been acquainted. 

"Shortly after this, without coming to any posi- 
tive understanding with her, I set out for Vandalia, 
when and where you first saw me. During my stay 
there I had letters from her which did not change 
my opinion of either her intellect or intention, but 
on the contrary confirmed it in both. 

" All this while, although I was fixed, * firm as 
the surge-repelling rock,' in my resolution, I found 
I was continually repenting the rashness which had 
led me to make it. Through life, I have been in 
no bondage, either real or imaginary, from the thral- 


dom of which I so much desired to be free. After 
my return home, I saw nothing to change my opin- 
ions of her in any particular. She was the same, 
and so was I. I now spent my time in planning how 
I might get along through life after my contem- 
plated change of circumstances should have taken 
place, and how I might procrastinate the evil day 
for a time, which I really dreaded as much, perhaps 
more, than an Irishman does the halter. 

** After all my suffering upon this deeply interest- 
ing subject, here I am, wholly, unexpectedly, com- 
pletely, out of the * scrape ' ; and now I want to 
know if you can guess how I got out of it — out, 
clear, in every sense of the term ; no violation of 
word, honor, or conscience. I don't believe you can 
guess, and so I might as well tell you at once. As 
the lawyer says, it was done in the manner follow- 
ing, to-wit : After I had delayed the matter as long 
as 1 thought I could in honor do (which, by the 
way, had brought me round into the last fall), I 
concluded I might as well bring it to a consumma- 
tion without further delay ; and so I mustered my 
resolution, and made the proposal to her direct ; 
but, shocking to relate, she answered, No. At first 
I supposed she did it through an affectation of 
modesty, which I thought but ill became her under 
the peculiar circumstances of her case ; but on my 
renewal of the charge, I found she repelled it w^ith 
greater firmness than before. I tried it again and 
again, but with the same success, or rather with the 
same want of success. 

'* I finally was forced to give it up ; at which I 
very unexpectedly found myself mortified almost 
beyond endurance. I was mortified, it seemed to 
me, in a hundred different ways. My vanity was 
deeply wounded by the reflection that I had been 
too stupid to discover her intentions, and at the 
same time never doubtine that I understood them 


perfectly ; and also that she, whom I had taught 
myself to believe nobody else would have, had 
actually rejected me with all my fancied greatness. 
And, to cap the whole, I then for the first time 
began to suspect that I was really a little in love 
with her. But let it all go. I'll try and outlive 
it. Others have been made fools of by the girls ; 
but this can never with truth be said of m.e. I 
most emphatically, in this instance, made a fool of 
myself. I have now come to the conclusion never 
again to think of marrying, and for this reason : I 
can never be satisfied with any one who would be 
blockhead enough to have me. 

" When you receive this, write me a long yarn 
about something to amuse me. Give my respects 
to Mr. Browning. 

** Your sincere friend, 

" A. Lincoln." 

Mrs. O. H. Browning. 

As before mentioned Miss Owens was afterwards 
married and became the mother of five children. 
Two of her sons served in the Confederate army. 
She died July 4, 1877. Speaking of Mr. Lincoln a 
a short time before her death she referred to him as 
"■ a man with a heart full of kindness and a head full 
of sense." 


In December, 1834, Lincoln prepared himself for 
the Legislature to which he had been elected by- 
such a complimentary majority. Through the gen- 
erosity of his friend Smoot he purchased a new suit 
of clothes, and entering the stage at New Salem, 
rode through to Vandalia, the seat of government. 
He appreciated the dignity of his new position, and 
instead of walking to the capitol, as some of his 
biographers have contended, availed himself of the 
usual mode of travel. At this session of the Legis- 
lature he was anything but conspicuous. In reality 
he was very modest, but shrewd enough to impress 
the force of his character on those persons whose 
influence might some day be of advantage to him. 
He made but little stir, if we are to believe the 
record, during the whole of this first session. Made 
a member of the committee on Public Accounts 
and Expenditures, his name appears so seldom in 
the reports of the proceedings that we are prone to 
conclude that he must have contented himself with 
listening to the flashes of border oratory and ab- 
sorbing his due proportion of parliamentary law. 
He was reserved in manner, but very observant ; 
said little, but learned much ; made the acquaint- 
ance of all the members and many influential per- 



sons on the outside. The lobby at that day con- 
tained the representative men of the state — men of 
acknowledged prominence and respectability, many 
of them able lawyers, drawn thither in advocacy 
of some pet bill. Schemes of vast internal im- 
provements attracted a retinue of log-rollers, who 
in later days seem to have been an indispensable 
necessity in the movement of complicated legisla- 
tive machinery. Men of capital and brains were 
there. He early realized the importance of know- 
ing all these, trusting to the inspiration of some 
future hour to impress them with his skill as an 
organizer or his power as an orator. Among the 
members of the outside or ''third body" was 
Stephen A. Douglas, whom Lincoln then saw for 
the first time. Douglas had come from Vermont 
only the year before, but was already undertaking 
to supplant John J. Hardin in the office of States 
Attorney for the district in which both lived. 
What impression he made on Lincoln, what opin- 
ions each formed of the other, or what the extent 
of their acquaintance then was, w^e do not know. It 
is said that Lincoln afterwards in mentioning their 
first meeting observed of the newly-arrived Ver- 
monter that he was the " least man he had ever 
seen." The Legislature proper contained the youth 
and blood and fire of the frontier. Some of the 
men who participated in these early parliament- 
ary battles were destined to carry the banners 
of great political parties, some to lead in war and 
some in the great council chamber of the nation. 
Some were to fill the Governor's office, others to 


wear the judicial ermine, and one was destined to 
be Chief Magistrate and die a martyr to the cause 
of human liberty. 

The society of Vandalia and the people attracted 
thither by the Legislature made it, for that early 
day, a gay place indeed. Compared to Lincoln's 
former environments, it had no lack of refinement 
and polish. That he absorbed a good deal of this 
by contact with the men and women who sur- 
rounded him there can be no doubt. The '' drift of 
sentiment and the sweep of civilization " at this 
time can best be measured by the character of the 
legislation. There were acts to incorporate banks, 
turnpikes, bridges, insurance companies, towns, 
railroads, and female academies. The vigor and 
enterprise of New England fusing with the illusory 
prestige of Kentucky and Virginia was fast forming 
a new civilization to spread over the prairies! 
At this session Lincoln remained quietly in the\ 
background, and contented himself with the intro- | 
duction of a resolution in favor of securing to the \ 
State a part of the proceeds of sales of public lands • 
within its limits. With this brief and modest rec- 
ord he returned to his constituents at New Salem. 
With zealous perseverance, he renewed his applica- 
tion to the law and to surveying, continuing his 
studies in both departments until he became, as he 
thought, reliable and proficient. By reason of a 
change in the office of Surveyor for the county 
he became a deputy under Thomas M. Neale, who 
had been elected to succeed John Calhoun. The 
speculation in lands made a brisk business for the 


new surveyor, who even added Calhoun, his prede- 
cessor, to the list of deputies. Lincoln had now 
become somewhat established in the good-will and 
respect of his constituents. His bashfulness and 
timidity was gradually giving way to a feeling of 
self-confidence, and he began to exult over his abil- 
ity to stand alone. The brief taste of public office 
which he had just enjoyed, and the distinction it 
gave him only whetted his appetite for further hon- 
ors. Accordingly, in 1836 we find him a candidate 
for the Legislature again. I well remember this 
campaign and the election which followed, for my 
father, Archer G. Herndon, was also a candidate, 
aspiring to a seat in the State Senate. The Leg- 
islature at the session previous had in its apportion- 
ment bill increased the delegation from Sangamon 
county to seven Representatives and two Sena- 
tors. Party conventions had not yet been invented, 
and there being no nominating machinery to in- 
terfere, the field was open for any and all to run. 
Lincoln again resorted, in opening his canvass, to 
the medium of the political handbill. Although it 
had not operated with the most satisfactory results 
in his first campaign, yet he felt willing to risk it 
again. Candidates of that day evinced far more 
willingness to announce their position than political 
aspirants do now. Without waiting for a conven- 
tion to construct a platform, or some great politi- 
cal leader to *' sound the key-note of the campaign," 
they stepped to the forefront and blew the bugle 
themselves. This custom will account for the bold- 
ness of Lincoln's utterances and the unequivocal 


tone of his declarations. His card— a sort of politi- 
cal fulmination — was as follows : 

"New Salem, June 13, 1836. 
" To the Editor of The Jo2irnal : 

'* In your paper of last Saturday I see a com- 
munication over the signature of " Many Voters " 
in which the candidates who are announced in the 
Journal are called upon to ' show their hands.' 
Agreed. Here's mine : 

'' I go for all sharing the privileges of the govern- 
ment who assist in bearing its burdens. Conse- 
quently, I go for admitting all whites to the right 
of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms (by no 
means excluding females). 

" If elected I shall consider the whole people of 
Sangamon my constituents, as well those that 
oppose as those that support me. 

''While acting as their Representative, I shall be i 
governed by their will on all subjects upon which I 
have the means of knowing what their will is ; and 1 
upon all others I shall do what my own judg- 
ment teaches me will best advance their interests. 
Whether elected or not, I go for distributing the 
proceeds of the sales of public lands to the several 
States to enable our State, in common with others, 
to dig canals and construct railroads without bor- 
rowing money and paying the interest on it. 

''If alive on the first Monday in November, I 
shall vote for Hugh L. White, for President. 
'' Very respectfully, 

''A. Lincoln." 

It is generally admitted that the bold and decided 
stand Lincoln took— though too audacious and 
emphatic for statesmen of a later day— suited the 
temper of the times. Leaving out of sight his 


expressed preference for White of Tennessee, — on 
whom all the anti-Jackson forces were disposed to 
concentrate, and which was but a mere question of 
men, — there is much food for thought in the second 
paragraph. His broad plan for universal suffrage 
certainly commends itself to the ladies, and we need 
no further evidence to satisfy our minds of his posi- 
tion on the subject of " Woman's Rights," had he 
lived. In fact, I cannot refrain from noting here 
what views he in after years held with reference to 
the great questions of moral and social reforms, 
under which he classed universal suffrage,, temper- 
ance, and slavery. **A11 such questions," he ob- 
served one day, as we were discussing temperance 
in the office, *' must first find lodgment with the most 
enlightened souls who stamp them with their ap- 
proval. In God's own time they will be organized 
into law and thus woven into the fabric of our in- 

The canvass which followed this public avowal of 
creed, was more exciting than any which had pre- 
ceded it. There were joint discussions, and, at 
times, much feeling was exhibited. Each candidate 
had his friends freely distributed through the crowd, 
and it needed but a few angry interruptions or 
insinuating rejoinders from one speaker to another 
to bring on a conflict between their friends. Fre- 
quently the speakers led in the battle themselves, 
as in the case of Ninian W. Edwards — afterwards a 
brother-in-law of Lincoln — who, in debate, drew a 
pistol on his opponent Achilles Morris, a prominent 
Democrat. An interesting relic of this canvass 


recently came to light, in a letter which Mr. Lin- 
coin wrote a week after he had announced his can- 
didacy. It is addressed to Colonel Robert Allen, 
a Democratic politician of local prominence, who 
had been circulating some charges intended to 
affect Lincoln's chances of election. The affair 
brought to the surface what little satire there was 
in Lincoln's nature, and he administers— by way of 
innuendo— such a flaying as the gallant colonel 
doubtless never wanted to have repeated. The 
strangest part of it all is that the letter was 
recently found and given to the public by Allen's 
own son.* It is as follows : 

''New Salem, June 21, 1836. 
" Dear Colonel: 

" I am told that during my absence last week 
you passed, through the place and stated publicly 
that you were in possession of a fact or facts, 
which if known to the public would entirely destroy 
the prospects of N. W. Edwards and myself at the 
ensuing election, but that through favor to us 
you would forbear to divulge them. No one has 
needed favors more than I, and generally few have 
been less unwilling to accept them, but in this case 
favor to me would be injustice to the public, and 
therefore I must beg your pardon for declining 
it. That I once had the confidence of the people 
of Sangamon county is sufficiently evident ; and if I 
have done anything, either by design or misadven- 
ture, which if known would subject me to a forfeit- 
ure of that confidence, he that knows of that thing, 
and conceals it, is a traitor to his country's interest. 

* The MS. is now in possession of the Lincoln Monument Asso- 
ciation of Springfield. 


** I find myself wholly unable to form any conjec- 
ture of what fact or facts, real or supposed, you 
spoke ; but my opinion of your veracity will not 
permit me for a moment to doubt that you at least 
believed what you said. I am flattered with the 
personal regard you manifested for me ; but I do 
hope that on mature reflection you will view the 
public interest as a paramount consideration and 
therefore let the worst come. 

" I assure you that the candid statement of facts 
on your part, however low it may sink me, shall 
never break the ties of personal friendship between 

" I wish an answer to this,.and you are at liberty 
to publish both if you choose. 

" Very respectfully, 
*' A. Lincoln." 

Col. Robert Allen. 

Lincoln was sure the letter never would be 
published or answered, because Allen had no facts 
whatever upon which to base any such charges. 
He also knew that Allen, who was a hide-bound 
Democrat, was in politics the most unreliable 
man in Sangamon county. A vein of irony runs 
all through the letter, especially where in such a 
delicate way he pays tribute to the veracity of 
Allen, who, although a generous fellow in the ordi- 
nary sense of the term, was unlimited in exaggera- 
tion and a veritable bag of wind. The effort to 
smoke him out seems to have been of little effect, 
but enough appears in Lincoln's letter to show 
that he was thoroughly warmed up. 

A joint debate in which all the candidates partic- 
ipated, took place on the Saturday preceding the 


election. " The speaking began in the forenoon,'* 
says one of the participants, " the candidates speak- 
ing alternately until everyone who could speak had 
had his turn, generally consuming the whole after- 
noon." Dr. Early, a Democratic candidate, in his 
speech took issue with Ninian W. Edwards, stigma- 
tizing some of the latter's statements as untrue. 
This brought Edwards to his feet with a similar 
retort. His angry tone and menacing manner, as 
he mounted a table and with clenched fist hurled 
defiance at his challenger, foreboded a tumultuous 
scene. '■'■ The excitement that followed," relates 
another one of the candidates,* " was intense — so 
much so that fighting men thought a duel must settle 
the difficulty. Mr. Lincoln by the programme fol- 
lowed Early. Taking up the subject in dispute, he 
handled it so fairly and with such ability, all were 
astonished and pleased." The turbulent spirits 
were quieted and the difficulty was easily overcome. 
Lincoln's friend Joshua F. Speed relates that dur- 
ing this campaign he made a speech in Springfield 
a few days before the election. " The crowd was 
large," says Speed, " and great numbers of his 
friends and admirers had come in from the country. 
I remember that his speech was a very able one, 
using with great power and originality all the argu- 
ments used to sustain the principles of the Whig 
party as against its great rival, the Democratic 
party of that day. The speech produced a pro- 
found impression — the crowd was with him. 

* R. L. Wilson, letter, Feb. lo, 1866, MS. 


George Forquer, an old citizen, a man of recognized 
prominence and ability as a lawyer, was present. 
Forquer had been a Whig — one of the champions 
of the party — but had then recently joined the 
Democratic party, and almost simultaneous with 
the change had been appointed Register of the 
Land Office, which office he then held. Just 
about that time Mr. Forquer had completed a neat 
frame house — the best house then in Springfield — 
and over it had erected a lightning rod, the only 
one in the place and the first one Mr. Lincoln had 
ever seen. He afterwards told me that seeing For- 
quer's lightning rod had led him to the study of the 
properties of electricity and the utility of the rod 
as a conductor. At the conclusion of Lincoln's 
speech the crowd was about dispersing, when For- 
quer rose and asked to be heard. He commenced 
by saying that the young man would have to be 
taken down, and was sorry the task devolved on 
him. He then proceeded to answer Lincoln's 
speech in a style which, while it was able and fair, 
in his whole manner asserted and claimed superi- 
ority." Lincoln stood a few steps away with arms 
folded, carefully watching the speaker and taking in 
everything he said. He was laboring under a good 
deal of suppressed excitement. Forquer's sting 
had roused the lion within him. At length For- 
quer concluded, and he mounted the stand to reply. 
" I have heard him often since," continued Speed, 
" in the courts and before the people, but never saw 
him appear and acquit himself so well as upon that 
occasion. His reply to Forquer was characterized 


by great dignity and force. I shall never forget the 
conclusion of that speech : * Mr. Forquer com- 
menced his speech by announcing that the young 
man would have to be taken down. It is for you, 
fellow citizens, not for me to say whether I am up 
or down. The gentleman has seen fit to allude to 
my being a young man ; but he forgets that I am 
older in years than I am in the tricks and trades of 
politicians. I desire to live, and I desire place and 
distinction ; but I would rather die now than, like 
the gentleman, live to see the day that I would 
change my politics for an office worth three thou- 
sand dollars a year, and then feel compelled to erect 
a lightning rod to protect a guilty conscience from 
an offended God.' " The effect of this rejoinder was 
wonderful, and gave Forquer and his lightning 
rod a notoriety the extent of which no one envied 

In the election which followed, Sangamon county 
in a political sense was entirely turned over. Hith- 
erto the Democrats had always carried it, but now 
the Whigs gained control by an average majority of 
four hundred. This time Lincoln led his ticket. 
The nine elected were, Abraham Lincoln, Ninian 
W. Edwards, John Dawson, Andrew McCormick, 
Dan Stone, Wm. F. Elkin, Robert L. Wilson, 
Job Fletcher, and Archer G. Herndon. The last 
two were senators. On assembling at V^andalia 
they were at once, on account of their stature, 
dubbed the '* Long Nine." In height they averaged 
over six feet, and in weight over two hundred 



pounds. ** We were not only noted," says one * of 
them, '* for our number and length, but for our 
combined influence. All the bad or objectional 
laws passed at that session of the Legislature and 
for many years afterwards were chargeable to the 
management and influence of the 'Long Nine.'" 
It is not my purpose to enter into a detailed ac- 
count of legislation at this period or to rehearse 
the history of the political conditions. Many and 
ingenious were the manoeuvres, but it would fill page 
after page to narrate them. One thing which de- 
serves mention in passing was *' that Yankee con- 
trivance," the convention system, which for the 
first time was brought into use. The Democrats, in 
obedience to the behests of Jackson, had adopted 
it, and, singularly enough, among the very first 
named for office under the operation of the new 
system was Stephen A. Douglas, who was elected to 
the Legislature from Morgan county. Its introduc- 
tion was attributed to Ebenezer Peck, of Chicago, 
a Democrat who had once, it was said, served in 
the Canadian Parliament. This latter supposed 
connection with a monarchical institution was suffi- 
cient to bring down on his head the united hostility 
of the Whigs, a feeling in which even Lincoln 
joined. But after witnessing for a time the wonder- 
ful eff"ects of its discipline in Democratic ranks, 
the Whigs too fell in, and resorted to the use of 
the improved machinery. 

The Legislature of which Mr. Lincoln thus be- 

*R. L. Wilson, MS. 


came a member was one that will never be for- 
gotten in Illinois. Its legislation in aid of thej 
so-called internal improvement system was sig- 
nificantly reckless and unwise. The gigantic and 
stupendous operations of the scheme dazzled the 
eyes of nearly everybody, but in the end it rolled 
up a debt so enormous as to impede the otherwise 
marvelous progress of Illinois. The burdens im- 
posed by this Legislature under the guise of 
improvements became so monumental in size it is 
little v/onder that at intervals for years afterward the 
monster of repudiation often showed its hideous 
face above the waves of popular indignation. 
These attempts at a settlement of the debt brought 
about a condition of things wdiich it is said led the 
Little Giant, in one of his efforts on the stump, to 
suggest that '' Illinois ought to be honest if she 
never paid a cent." However much we may regret 
that Lincoln took part and aided in this reckless leg- 
islation, we must not forget that his party and all his 
constituents gave him their united endorsement. 
They gave evidence of their approval of his course 
by two subsequent elections to the same office. It 
has never surprised me in the least that Lincoln fell 
so harmoniously in with the great system of im- 
provement. He never had what some people call 
•* money sense." By reason of his peculiar nature 
and construction he was endowed with none of the 
elements of a political economist. He was en- 
thusiastic and theoretical to a certain degree ; 
could take hold of, and wrap himself up in, a great 
moral question ; but in dealing with the financial 


and commercial interests of a community or gov- 
ernment he was equally as inadequate as he was 
ineffectual in managing the economy of his own 
household. In this respect alone I always regarded 
Mr. Lincoln as a weak man. 

One of his biographers, describing his legislative 
career at this time, says of him: " He was big with 
prospects : his real public service was just now 
about to begin. In the previous Legislature he had 
been silent, observant, studious. He had improved 
the opportunity so well that of all men in this new 
body, of equal age in the service, he was the 
smartest parliamentarian and cunningest ' log roller.' 
He was fully determined to identify himself conspic- 
uously with the liberal legislation in contemplation, 
and dreamed of a fame very different from that 
which he actually obtained as an anti-slavery leader. 
It was about this time he told his friend Speed that 
he aimed at the great distinction of being called the 
' DeWitt Clinton of Illinois.' " 

The representatives in the Legislature from San- 
gamon county had been instructed by a mass con- 
vention of their constituents to vote " for a general 
system of internal improvements." Another con- 
vention of delegates from all the counties in the 
State met at Vandalia and made a similar recom- 
mendation to the members of the Legislature, 
specifying that it should be '' commensurate with the 
wants of the people." Provision was made for a 
gridiron of railroads. The extreme points of the 
State, east and west, north and south, were to be 
brought together by thirteen hundred miles of iron 


rails. Every river and stream of the least impor- 
tance was to be widened, deepened, and made 
navigable. A canal to connect the Illinois River 
and Lake Michigan was to be dug, and thus the 
great system was to be made " commensurate with 
the wants of the people." To effect all these great 
ends, a loan of twelve million dollars was authorized 
before the session closed. Work on all these gigan- 
tic enterprises was to begin at the earliest prac- 
ticable moment ; cities were to spring up every- 
where ; capital from abroad was to come pouring in ; 
attracted by the glowing reports of marvelous 
progress and great internal wealth, people were to 
come swarming in by colonies, until in the end 
Illinois was to outstrip all the others, and herself 
become the Empire State of the Union. 

Lincoln served on the Committee on Finance, 
and zealously labored for the success of the great 
measures proposed, believing they would ultimately 
enrich the State, and redound to the glory of all 
who aided in their passage. In advocating these 
extensive and far-reaching plans he was not alone. 
Stephen A. Douglas, John A. McClernand, James 
Shields, and others prominent in the subsequent 
history of the State, were equally as earnest in es- 
pousing the cause of improvement, and sharingj 
with him the glory that attended it-. Next in 
importance came the bill to remove the seat of 
government from Vandalia. Springfield, of course, 
wanted it. So also did Alton, Decatur, Peoria, 
Jacksonville, and Illiopolis. But the Long Nine, 
by their adroitness and influence, were too much 


for their contestants. They made a bold fight for 
Springfield, intrusting the managenaent of the bill 
to Lincoln. The friends of other cities fought 
Springfield bitterly, but under Lincoln's leadership 
the Long Nine contested with them every inch of 
the way. The struggle was warm and protracted. 
" Its enemies," relates one of Lincoln's colleagues,^ 
'' laid it on the table twice. In those darkest hours 
when our bill to all appearances was beyond resusci- 
tation, and all our opponents were jubilant over our 
defeat, and when friends could see no hope, Mr. 
Lincoln never for one moment despaired ; but 
collecting his colleagues to his room for consulta- 
tion, his practical common-sense, his thorough 
knowledge of human nature, then made him an 
overmatch for his compeers and for any man that I 
have ever known." The friends of the bill at last 
surmounted all obstacles, and only a day or two 
before the close of the session secured its passage 
by a joint vote of both houses. 

Meanwhile the great agitation against human 
slavery, which like a rare plant had flourished amid 
the hills of New England in luxuriant growth, 
began to make its appearance in the West. Mis- 
sionaries in the great cause of human liberty were 
settling everywhere. Taunts, jeers, ridicule, perse- 
cution, assassination even, were destined to prove 
ineffectual in the effort to suppress or exterminate 
these pioneers of Abolitionism. These brave but 
derided apostles carried with them the seed of a 

* R. S. Wilson, MS. 


great reform. Perhaps, as was then said of them, 
they were somewhat in advance of their season, and 
perhaps too, some of the seed might be sown in 
sterile ground and never come to Hfe, but they 
comforted themselves with the assurance that it 
would not all die. A little here and there was 
destined to grow to life and beauty. 

It is not surprising, I think, that Lincoln should 
have viewed this New England importation with 
mingled suspicion and alarm. Abstractly, and 
from the standpoint of conscience, he abhorred 
slavery. But born in Kentucky, and surrounded as 
he was by slave-holding influences, absorbing their 
prejudices and following in their line of thought, it 
is not strange, I repeat, that he should fail to esti- 
mate properly the righteous indignation and unre- 
strained zeal of a Yankee Abolitionist. On the 
last day but one of the session, he solicited his 
colleagues to sign with him a mild and carefully 
worded protest against certain resolutions on the 
subject of domestic slavery, which had been passed 
by both houses of the Legislature. They all 
declined, however, save one, Dan Stone, "^ who with 

*" Following are the resolutions against the passage of which 
Lincoln and Stone made their protest : 

Resolved by the General Assembly of the State of Illinois : That 
we highly disapprove of the formation of Abolition societies and of 
the doctrines promulgated by them, 

That the right of property in slaves is sacred to the slave-holding 
States by the Federal Constitution, and that they cannot be deprived 
of that right without their consent, 

That the General Government cannot abolish slavery in the 


his associate will probably be known long after 
mention of all other members of the Long Nine 
has dropped from history. The language and 
sentiment are clearly Lincolnian, and over twenty 
years afterward, when it was charged that Lincoln 
was an Abolitionist, and this protest was cited as 
proof, it was only necessary to call for a careful 
reading of the paper for an unqualified and over- 
whelming refutation of the charge. The records of 
the Legislature for March 3, 1837, contain this 

'* Resolutions upon the subject of domestic 
slavery having passed both branches of the General 
Assembly at its present session, the undersigned 
hereby protest against the passage of the same. 

"They believe that the institution of slavery is 
founded on both injustice and bad policy, but that 
the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends 
rather to increase than abate its evils. 

'•They believe that the Congress of the United 
States has no power under the Constitution to 
interfere with the institution of slavery in the 
different States. 

'* They believe that the Congress of the United 
States has the power under the Constitution to 
abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, but that 
the power ought not to be exercised unless at the 
request of the people of the District. 

District of Columbia against the consent of the citizens of said 
District, without a manifest breach of good faith, 

That the Governor be requested to transmit to the States of 
Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, New York, and Connecticut, a copy 
of the foregeing report and resolutions. 



"The difference between these opinions and 
those contained in the above resolutions is their 
reason for entering this protest. 

" Dan Stone, 
''A. Lincoln, 
'' Representatives from the county of Sangamon." 

This document so adroitly drawn and worded, 
this protest pruned of any offensive allusions, and 
cautiously framed so as to suit the temper of the 
times, stripped of its verbal foliage reveals in 
naked grandeur the solemn truth that ''the institu- 
tion of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad 
policy." A quarter of a century later finds one of 
these protesters righting the injustice and correct- 
ing the bad policy of the inhuman and diabol- 
ical institution. 

The return of the ''Long Nine" to Springfield 
was the occasion of much enthusiasm and joy. 
The manifestations of public delight had never 
been equalled before, save when the steamer Talis- 
man made its famous trip down the Sangamon in 
183 1. The returning legislators were welcomed 
with public dinners and the effervescent buncombe 
of local orators. Amid the congratulations of warm 
friends and the approval of their enthusiastic 
constituents, in which Lincoln received the lion's 
share of praise, they separated, each departing to 
his own home. 

After his return from the Legislature, Lincoln 
determined to remove to Springfield, the county 
seat, and begin the practice of the law. Having 
been so instrumental in securing the removal of th^ 


State Capital from Vandalia, and having received 
such encouraging assurances from Major John T. 
Stuart and other leading citizens, he felt confident 
of a good start.* He had little, if any, money, but 
hoped to find in Springfield, as he had in New 
Salem, good and influential friends, who, recogniz- 
ing alike his honesty and his nobility of character, 
would aid him whenever a crisis came and their 
help was needed. In this hope he was by no 
means in error, for his subsequent history shows 
that he indeed united his friends to himself with 
hooks of steel. I had up to this time frequently 
seen Mr. Lincoln — had often, while visiting my 
cousins, James and Rowan Herndon, at New Salem, 
met him at their house — but became warmly at- 
tached to him soon after his removal to Springfield. 
There was something in his tall and angular frame, 
his ill-fitting garments, honest face, and lively 
humor that imprinted his individuality on my affec- 
tion and regard. What impression I made on him 1 
had no means of knowing till many years afterward. 
He was my senior by nine years, and I looked up to 
him, naturally enough, as my superior in everything — 
a thing I continued to do till the end of his days. 

* Lincoln used to come to our office — Stuart's and mine — in 
Springfield from New Salem and borrow law-books. Sometimes he 
walked but generally rode. He was the most uncouth looking 
young man I ever saw. He seemed to have but little to say ; seemed 
to feel tmiid, with a tinge of sadness visible in the countenance, but 
when he did talk all this disappeared for the time and he demon- 
strated that he was both strong and acute. He surprised us more 
and more at every visit." — Henry E. Dummcr, Statement, Sept. 
1 6th, 1865. 

C3 ^ 
2 d- 


Now that the State capital was to be located at 
Springfield, that place began, by way of asserting 
its social superiority, to put on a good many airs. 
Wealth made its gaudy display, and thus sought 
to attain a pre-eminence from which learning and 
refinement are frequently cut off. Already, people 
had settled there who could trace their descent 
down a long line of distinguished ancestry. The 
established families were mainly from Kentucky. 
They re-echoed the sentiments and reflected the 
arrogance and elegance of a slave-holding aristoc- 
racy. " The Todds, Stuarts, and Edwardses were 
there, with priests, dogs, and servants ; ** there also 
were the Mathers, Lambs, Opdykes, Forquers, and 
Fords. Amid all ''the flourishing about in car- 
riages " and the pretentious elegance of that early 
day was Lincoln. Of origin, doubtful if not un- 
known ; "poor, without the means of hiding his 
poverty," he represented yet another importation 
from Kentucky which is significantly comprehended 
by the term, "the poor whites." Springfield, con- 
taining between one and two thousand people, was 
near the northern line of settlement in Illinois. 
Still it was the center of a limited area of wealth 
and refinement. Its citizens were imbued with the 
spirit of push and enterprise. Lincoln therefore 
could not have been thrown into a better or more 
appreciative community. 

In March, 1837, he was licensed to practice law. 
His name appears for the first time as attorney 
for the plaintiff in the case of Hciwthorne vs. Wool- 
ridge. He entered the office and became the 


partner of his comrade in the Black Hawk war, 
John T. Stuart, who had gained rather an exten- 
sive practice, and who, by the loan of sundry text- 
books several years before, had encouraged Lin- 
coln to continue in the study of law. Stuart had 
emigrated from Kentucky in 1828, and on account 
of his nativity, if for no other reason, had great 
influence with the leading people in Springfield. 
He used to relate that on the next morning after 
his arrival in Springfield he was standing in front of 
the village store, leaning against a post in the side- 
walk and wondering how to introduce himself to 
the community, when he was approached by a well- 
dressed old gentleman, who, interesting himself in 
the newcomer's welfare, enquired after his history 
and business. " Fm from Kentucky," answered 
Stuart, ''and my profession is that of a lawyer, sir. 
What is the prospect here ? " Throwing his head 
back and closing his left eye the old gentleman 

reflected a moment. " Young man, d d slim 

chance for that kind of a combination here," was 
the response. 

At the time of Lincoln's entry into the office, 
Stuart was just recovering from the effects of a 
congressional race in which he had been the loser. 
He was still deeply absorbed in politics, and was 
preparing for the next canvass, in which he was fin- 
ally successful — defeating the wily and ambitious 
Stephen A. Douglas. In consequence of the politi- 
cal allurements, Stuart did not give to the law his 
undivided time or the full force of his energy and 
intellect. Thus more or less responsibility in the 


management of business and the conduct of cases 
soon devolved on Lincoln. The entries in the ac- 
count books of the firm are all in the handwrit- 
ing of Lincoln. Most of the declarations and pleas 
were written by him also. This sort of exercise 
was never congenial to him, and it was the only 
time, save a brief period under Judge Logan, 
that he served as junior partner and performed 
the labor required of one who serves in that rather 
subordinate capacity. He had not yet learned to 
love work. The ofifice of the firm was in the upper 
story of a building opposite the north-west corner 
of the present Court-house Square. In the room 
underneath, the county court was held. The fur- 
niture was in keeping with the pretensions of the 
firm — a small lounge or bed, a chair containing a 
buffalo robe, in which the junior member was wont 
to sit and study, a hard wooden bench, a feeble at- 
tempt at a book-case, and a table which ansv/ered 
for a desk. Lincoln's first attempt at settlement 
in Springfield, which preceded a few days his part- 
nership with Stuart, has been graphically described 
by his friend, Joshua F. Speed, who generously 
offered to share his quarters with the young legal 
aspirant. Speed, who was a prosperous young mer- 
chant, reports that Lincoln's personal effects con- 
sisted of a pair of saddle-bags containing two or 
three lawbooks and a few pieces of clothing. " He 
had ridden into town on a borrowed horse," relates 
Speed, ** and engaged from the only cabinet-maker 
in the village a single bedstead. He came into my 
store, set his saddle-ba^^s on the counter, and en- 


quired what the furniture for a single bedstead 
would cost. I took slate and pencil, made a 
calculation, and found the sum for furniture com- 
plete would amount to seventeen dollars in all. 
Said he : 'It is probably cheap enough ; but I 
want to say that, cheap as it is, I have not the 
money to pay. But if you will credit me until 
Christmas, and my experiment here as a lawyer is 
a success, I will pay you then. If I fail in that I 
will probably never pay you at all.' The tone 
of his voice was so melancholy that I felt for 
him. I looked up at him and I thought then, as I 
think now, that I never saw so gloomy and melan- 
choly a face in my life. I said to him, * So small a 
debt seems to affect you so deeply, I think I can 
suggest a plan by which you will be able to attain 
your end without incurring any debt. I have a 
very large room and a very large double bed in it, 
which you are perfectly welcome to share with me 
if you choose.' ' Where is your room?' he asked. 
•^ Upstairs,' said I, pointing to the stairs leading 
from the store to my room. Without saying a 
word he took his saddle-bags on his arm, went up- 
stairs, set them down on the floor, came down again, 
and with a face beaming with pleasure and smiles, 
exclaimed, 'Well, Speed, I'm moved.' " 

William Butler, who was prominent in the re- 
moval of the capital from Vandalia to Springfield, 
took no little interest in Lincoln, while a member 
of the Legislature. After his removal to Spring- 
field, Lincoln boarded at Butler's house for several 
years. He became warmly attached to the family, 

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and it is probable the matter of pay never entered 
Butler's mind. He was not only able but willing 
to befriend the young lawyer in this and many 
other ways. 

Stephen T. Logan w^as judge of the Circuit court, 
and Stephen A. Douglas was prosecuting attorney. 
Among the attorneys we find many promising 
spirits. Edward D. Baker, John T. Stuart, Cyrus 
Walker, Samuel H. Treat, Jesse B. Thomas, George 
Forquer, Dan Stone, Ninian W. Edwards, John J. 
Hardin, Schuyler Strong, A. T. Bledsoe, and Josiah 
Lamborn — a galaxy of names, each destined to 
shed more or less lustre on the history of the State. 
While I am inclined to believe that Lincoln did 
not, after entering Stuart's office, do as much deep 
and assiduous studying as people generally credit 
him with, yet I am confident he absorbed not a 
little learning by contact with the great minds who 
thronged about the courts and State Capitol. The 
books of Stuart and Lincoln, during 1837, show a 
practice more extensive than lucrative, for while 
they received a number of fees, only two or there 
of them reached fifty dollars ; and one of these has 
a credit of: "Coat to Stuart, $15.00," showing that 
they were compelled, now and then, even to '' trade 
out" their earnings. The litigation was as limited 
in importance as in extent. There were no great 
corporations, as in this progressive day, retaining 
for counsel the brains of the bar in every county 
seat, but the greatest as well as the least had to join 
the general scramble for practice. The courts con- 
sumed as much time deciding who had committed 


an assault or a trespass on a neighbor's ground, as 
it spent in the solution of questions arising on con- 
tracts, or unravelling similar legal complications. 
Lawyers depended for success, not on their knowl- 
edge of the law or their familiarity with its under- 
lying principles, but placed their reliance rather on 
their frontier oratory and the influence of their 
personal bearing before the jury. 

Lincoln made Speed's store headquarters. There 
politics, religion, and all other subjects were dis- 
cussed. There also public sentiment was made. 
The store had a large fire-place in the rear, and 
around it the lights of the town collected every 
evening. As the sparks flew from the crackling 
logs, another and more brilliant fire flashed when 
these great minds came into collision. Here were 
wont to gather Lincoln, Douglas, Baker, Calhoun, 
Browning, Lamborn, Jesse B. Thomas and others. 
Only those who were present and listened to these 
embryonic statesmen and budding orators will ever be 
able to recall their brilliant thoughts and appreciate 
their youthful enthusiasm. In the fall and winter 
of 1837, while I was attending college at Jackson- 
ville, the persecution and death of Elijah P. Love- 
joy at Alton took place. This cruel and uncalled- 
for murder had aroused the anti-slavery sentiment 
everywhere. It penetrated the college, and both 
faculty and students were loud and unrestrained in 
their denunciation of the crime. My father, who 
was thoroughly pro-slavery in his ideas, believing 
that the college was too strongly permeated with 
the virus of Abolitionism, forced me to withdraw 


from the institution and return home. But it was 
too late. My soul had absorbed too much of what 
my father behaved was rank poison. The mur- 
der of Lovejoy filled me with more desperation 
than the slave scene in New Orleans did Lincoln ; 
for while he believed in non-interference with 
slavery, so long as the Constitution permitted and 
authorized its existence, I, although acting nomi- 
nally with the Whig party up to 1853, struck out 
for Abolitionism pure and simple. 

On my return to Springfield from college, I hired 
to Joshua F. Speed as clerk in his store. My 
salary, seven hundred dollars per annum, was con- 
sidered good pay then. Speed, Lincoln, Charles 
R. Hurst/ and I slept in the room upstairs over 
the store. I had worked for Speed before going to 
college, and after hiring to him this time again, 
continued in his employ for several years. The 
young men who congregated about the store 
formed a society for the encouragement of debate 
and literary efforts. Sometimes we would meet in 
a lawyer's office and often in Speed's room. Be- 
sides the debates, poems and other original pro- 
ductions were read. Unfortunately we ruled out 
the ladies. I am free to admit I would not encour- 
age a similar thing nowadays; but in that early 
day the young men had not the comforts of books 
and newspapers which are within the reach of 
every boy now. Some allowance therefore should 
be made for us. I have forgotten the name of the 
society— if it had any— and can only recall a few 
of its leading spirits. Lincoln, James Matheney, 


Noah Rickard, Evan Butler, Milton Hay, and 
Newton Francis were members. I joined also. 
Matheney was secretary.^ We were favored with 
all sorts of literary productions. Lincoln one night 
entertained us with a few lines of rhyme intended 
to illustrate some weakness in woman — her frailty, 
perhaps. Unfortunately, the manuscript has not 
been preserved. Matheney was able, several years 
ago, to repeat a single stanza, but claimed that after 
the lapse of so many years it was all he could recall. 
Perhaps in the end it is best his memory w^as no 
more retentive. Reproduced here exactly as in the 
original, it might suggest more than one construction 
or offend against the canons of approved taste ; in 
either event I shall omit it. 

Besides this organization we had a society in 
Springfield, which contained and commanded all 

* Near Hoffman's Row, where the Coutts were held in 1839-40, 
lived a shoemaker who frequently would get drunk and invariably 
whipped his wife. Lincoln, hearing of this, told the man if he 
ever repeated it he would thrash him soundly himself. Meanwhile 
he told Evan Butler, Noah Rickard, and myself of it, and we decided 
if the offense occurred again to join with Lincoln in suppressing it. 
In due course of time we heard of it. We dragged the offender up 
to the court-house, stripped him of his shirt, and tied him to a post 
or pump which stood over the well in the yard back of the building. 
Then we sent for his wife and arming her with a good limb bade her 
" light in." We sat on our haunches and watched the performance. 
The wife did her work lustily and well. When we thought the cul- 
prit had had enough Lincoln released him ; we helped him on with 
his shirt and he crept sorrowfully homeward. Of course he threat- 
ened vengeance, but still we heard no further reports of wife-whip- 
ping from him. — James W. Matheney. 


the culture and talent of the place. Unlike the 
other one its meetings were public, and reflected 
great credit on the community. We called it the 
" Young Men's Lyceum." Late in 1837, Lincoln 
delivered before the society a carefully prepared 
address on the " Perpetuation of Our Free Institu- 
tions." * The inspiration and burthen of it was law 
and order. It has been printed in full so often, and 
is always to be found in the list of Lincoln's public 
speeches, that I presume I need not reproduce it here. 
It was highly sophomoric in character and abounded 
in striking and lofty metaphor. In point of rhetor- 
ical effort it excels anything he ever afterward 
attempted. Probably it was the thing people 
expect from a young man of twenty-eight. The 
address was published in the Saiigamon Journal 
and created for the young orator a reputation which 
soon extended beyond the limits of the locality in 
which he lived. As illustrative of his style of 
oratory, I beg to introduce the concluding para- 
graph of the address. Having characterized the 
surviving soldiers of the Revolution as ** living 
histories," he closes with this thrilling flourish: 
*' But these histories are gone. They can be read 
no more forever. They were a fortress of strength ; 
but what invading foeman never could do, the 
silent artillery of time has — the levelling of its 

* Mr. Lincoln's speech was brought out by the burning of a negro 
in St. Louis a few weeks before by a mob. Lincoln look this inci- 
dent as a sort of text for his remarks. James Matheney was ap- 
pointed by the Lyceum to request of Lincoln a copy of his speech 
and see to its publication. 


walls. They are gone. They were a forest of 
giant oaks ; but the all-resistless hurricane has swept 
over them, and left only here and there a lonely 
trunk, despoiled of its verdure, shorn of its foliage, 
unshading and unshaded, to murmur in a few more 
gentle breezes, and to combat with its mutilated 
limbs a few more rude storms, then to sink and be 
no more. They were pillars of the temple of lib- 
erty, and now that they have crumbled away, that 
temple must fall, unless we, their descendants, 
supply their places with other pillars hewn from the 
same solid quarry of sober reason. Passion has 
helped us, but can do so no more. It will in future 
be our enemy. Reason — cold, calculating, unim- 
passioned reason — must furnish all the materials 
for our future support and defense. Let these 
materials be moulded into general intelligence, 
sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for 
the Constitution and the laws. * * * Upon these 
let the proud fabric of freedom rest as the rock of 
its basis, and as truly as has been said of the only 
greater institution, 'The gates of hell shall not 
prevail against it.' " 

In time Lincoln's style changed : he became more 
eloquent but with less gaudy ornamentation. He 
grew in oratorical power, dropping gradually the 
alliteration and rosy metaphor of youth, until he 
was able at last to deliver that grandest of all 
orations — the Gettysburg address. 

One evening, while the usual throng of loungers 
surrounded the inviting fireplace in Speed's store, 
the conversation turned on political matters. The 


disputants waxed warm and acrimonious as the 
discussion proceeded. Business being over for the 
day, I strolled back and seating myself on a keg 
listened with eager interest to the battle going on 
among these would-be statesmen. Douglas, 1 rec- 
ollect, was leading on the Democratic side. He had 
already learned the art of dodging in debate, but 
still he was subtle, fiery, and impetuous. He 
charged the Whigs with every blunder and political 
crime he could imagine. No vulnerable spot 
seemed to have escaped him. At last, with great 
vehemence, he sprang up and abruptly made a chal- 
lenge to those who differed with him to discuss the 
whole matter publicly, remarking that, " This store 
is no place to talk politics." In answer to Doug- 
las's challenge the contest was entered into. It 
took place in the Presbyterian Church. Douglas, 
Calhoun, Lamborn, and Thomas represented the 
Democrats ; and Logan, Baker, Browning, and Lin- 
coln, in the order named, presented the Whig side 
of the question. One evening was given to each 
man, and it therefore required over a week to com- 
plete the tournament. Lincoln occupied the last 
evening, and although the people by that time had 
necessarily grown a little tired of the monotony and 
well-worn repetition, yet Lincoln's manner of pre- 
senting his thoughts and answering his Democratic 
opponents excited renewed interest. So deep was the 
impression he created that he was asked to furnish 
his speech to the Sangamon Journal for publication, 
and it afterwards appeared in the columns of that 


Meanwhile Mr. Lincoln had attended one special 
session of the Legislature in July, 1837. The ses- 
sion was called to take some action with regard to 
the financial condition of the State. The Bank of 
the United States and the New York and Philadel- 
phia Banks had suspended specie payments. This 
action had precipitated general ruin among business 
men and interests over the entire country. The 
called session of the Legislature was intended to 
save the Illinois banks from impending dissolution. 
Lincoln retained his position on the Committee on 
Finance, and had lost none of his enthusiasm over 
the glorious prospects of internal improvements. 
The Legislature, instead of abridging, only extended 
the already colossal proportions of the great sys- 
tem. In this they paid no heed to the governor, 
whose head seems to have been significantly clear 
on the folly of the enterprise. 

In 1838 Mr. Lincoln was again elected to the 
Legislature. At this session, as the nominee of the 
Whig party, he received thirty-eight votes for 
Speaker. Wm. L. D. Ewing, his successful com- 
petitor, the Democratic candidate, received forty- 
three votes, and was elected. Besides retaining his 
place on the Finance Committee, Lincoln was 
assigned to the Committee on Counties. The 
enthusiasm and zeal of the friends of internal im- 
provements began to flag now in view of the fact 
that the bonds issued were beginning to find their 
true level in point of value. Lincoln, together with 
others of kindred views, tried to bolster the *' sys- 
tem " up ; but soon the discouraging fact became 


apparent that no more money could be obtained, 
and the Legislature began to descant on what part 
of the debt was lawful and what unlawful. Repu- 
diation seemed not far off. Mr. Lincoln despaired 
now of ever becoming the *' DeWitt Clinton of Illi- 
nois." We find him admitting *' his share of the 
responsibility in the present crisis," and finally con- 
cluding that he was " no financier " after all. No 
sooner had the Legislature adjourned than he 
decided — if he had not already so determined — to 
run for the same place again. He probably wanted 
it for a vindication. He was pursued now more 
fiercely than ever, and he was better able to endure 
the vilification of a political campaign than when 
he first offered himself to the voters in New Salem. 
Among the Democratic orators who stumped the 
county at this time was one Taylor — commonly 
known as Col. Dick Taylor. He was a showy, bom- 
bastic man, wMth a weakness for fine clothes and 
other personal adornments. Frequently he was 
pitted against Lincoln, and indulged in many bitter 
flings at the lordly ways and aristocratic pretensions 
of the Whigs. He had a way of appealing to "his 
horny-handed neighbors," and resorted to many 
other artful tricks of a demagogue. When he was 
one day expatiating in his accustomed style, Lin- 
coln, in a spirit of mischief and, as he expressed it, 
" to take the wind out of his sails," slipped up to 
the speaker's side, and catching his vest by the 
lower edge gave it a sharp pull. The latter in- 
stantly opened and revealed to his astonished hear- 
ers a ruffled shirt-front glittering with watch-chain, 


seals, and. other golden jewels. The effect was start- 
ling. The speaker stood confused and dumb- 
founded, while the audience roared with laugh- 
ter. When it came Lincoln's turn to answer he 
covered the gallant colonel over in this style : 
"■ While Colonel Taylor was making these charges 
against the Whigs over the country, riding in 
fine carriages, wearing ruffled shirts, kid gloves, 
massive gold watch-chains with large gold seals, and 
flourishing a heavy gold-headed cane, I was a poor 
boy, hired on a flat-boat at eight dollars a month, 
and had only one pair of breeches to my back, and 
they were buckskin. Now if you know the nature 
of buckskin when wet and dried by the sun, it will 
shrink ; and my breeches kept shrinking- until they 
left several inches of my legs bare between the tops 
of my socks and the lower part of my breeches ; and 
whilst I was growing taller they were becoming 
shorter, and so much tighter that they left a blue 
streak around my legs that can be seen to this day. 
If you call this aristocracy I plead guilty to the 
charge." ^ 

It was during this same canvass that Lincoln by 
his manly interference protected his friend E. D. 
Baker from the anger of an infuriated crowd. 
Baker was a brilliant and effective speaker, and 
quite as full too of courage as invective. He was 
addressing a crowd in the court room, which was 
immediately underneath Stuart and Lincoln's office. 
Just above the platform on which the speaker stood 

•*From MS. of Ninian W. Edwards. 


was a trap door in the floor, which opened into Lin- 
coln's office. Lincoln at the time, as was often his 
habit, was lying on the floor looking down through 
the door at the speaker. I was in the body of the 
crowd. Baker was hot-headed and impulsive, but 
brave as a lion. Growing warm in his arraignment 
of the Democratic party, he charged that '' wher- 
ever there was a land office there was a Democratic 
newspaper to defend its corruptions." This 
angered the brother of the editor of our town paper, 
who was present, and who cried out, '* Pull him 
down," at the same time advancing from the crowd 
as if to perform the task himself. Baker, his face 
pale with excitement, squared himself for resist- 
ance. A shuffling of feet, a forward movement 
of the crowd, and great confusion followed. 
Just then a long pair of legs were seen dangling 
from the aperture above, and instantly the figure of 
Lincoln dropped on the platform. Motioning with 
his hands for silence and not succeeding, he seized 
a stone water-pitcher standing near by, threatening 
to break it over the head of the first man who laid 
hands on Baker. '' Hold on, gentlemen," he 
shouted, *' this is the land of free speech. Mr. Baker 
has a right to speak and ought to be heard. I am 
here to protect him, and no man shall take him 
from this stand if I can prevent it." His interfer- 
ence had the desired effect. Quiet was soon re- 
stored, and the valiant Baker was allowed to pro- 
ceed. I was in the back part of the crowd that 
night, and an enthusiastic Baker man myself. I 
knew he was a brave man, and even if Lincoln had 


not interposed, I felt sure he wouldn't have been 
pulled from the platform without a bitter struggle. 

This canvass — 1840 — was Mr. Lincoln's last cam- 
paign for the Legislature. Feeling that he had had 
enough honor out of the office he probably aspired 
for a place of more distinction. Jesse B. Thomas, 
one of the men who had represented the Dem- 
ocratic side in the great debate in the Presbyterian 
Church, in a speech at the court-house during this 
campaign, indulged in some fun at the expense of 
the '' Long Nine," reflecting somewhat more on 
Lincoln than the rest. The latter was not present, 
but being apprised by his friends of what had been 
said, hastened to the meeting, and soon after 
Thomas closed, stepped upon the platform and re- 
sponded. The substance of his speech on this oc- 
casion was not so memorable as the manner of its 
delivery. He felt the sting of Thomas's allusions, 
and for the first time, on the stump or in pub- 
lic, resorted to mimicry for effect. In this, as will 
be seen later along, he was without a rival. He 
imitated Thomas in gesture and voice, at times cari- 
caturing his walk and the very motion of his body. 
Thomas, like everybody else, had some peculiarities 
of expression and gesture, and these Lincoln suc- 
ceeded in rendering more prominent than ever. 
The crowd yelled and cheered as he continued. 
Encouraged by these demonstrations, the ludicrous 
features of the speaker's performance gave way to 
intense and scathing ridicule. Thomas, who was 
obliged to sit near by and endure the pain of 
this unique ordeal, was ordinarily sensitive ; but the 


exhibition goaded him to desperation. He was 
so thoroughly wrought up with suppressed emo- 
tion that he actually gave way to tears. I was not a 
witness of this scene, but the next day it was the 
talk of the town, and for years afterwards it was 
called the "skinning" of Thomas. Speed was 
there, so were A. Y. Ellis, Ninian W. Edwards, and 
David Davis, who was just then coming into promi- 
nence. The whole thing was so unlike Lincoln, it 
was not soon forgotten either by his friends or ene- 
mies. I heard him afterwards say that the recollec- 
tion of his conduct that evening filled him with the 
deepest chagrin. He felt that he had gone too far, 
and to rid his good-nature of a load, hunted up 
Thomas and made ample apology. The incident 
and its sequel proved that Lincoln could not only 
be vindictive but manly as well. 

He was selected as an Elector on the Harrison 
ticket for President in 1840, and as such stumped 
over a good portion of the State. In debate he fre- 
quently met Douglas, who had already become the 
standard-bearer and exponent of Democratic prin- 
ciples. These joint meetings were spirited affairs 
sometimes ; but at no time did he find the Little 
Giant averse to a conflict. " He was very sensi- 
tive," relates one of his colleagues on the stump, 
'* where he thought he had failed to meet the expec- 
tations of his friends. I remember a case. He was 
pitted by the Whigs in 1840 to debate with Mr. 
Douglas, the Democratic champion. Lincoln did 
not come up to the requirements of the occasion. 
He was conscious of his failure, and I never saw 


any man so much distressed. He begged to be per- 
mitted to try it again, and was reluctantly indulged; 
and in the next effort he transcended our highest 
expectations.^ I never heard and never expect to 
hear such a triumphant vindication as he then gave 
of Whig measures or policy. He never after, to my 
knowledge, fell below himself." 

The campaign ended in his election to the Legis- 
lature. He was again the caucus nominee of the 
Whigs for Speaker, receiving thirty-six votes ; but 
his former antagonist, William L. D. Ewing, was 
elected by a majority of ten votes over him. The 
proceedings of, and laws enacted by, this Legisla- 
ture are so much a matter of history and so gener- 
ally known that it seems a needless task on my part 
to enter into details. It is proper to note, however, 
in passing, that Mr. Lincoln was neither prompt nor 
constant in his attendance during the session. He 
had been to a certain extent " upset " by another 
love affair, the particulars of which must be assigned 
to a future chapter. 

* Joseph Gillespie, MS. letter, June 5, '66. 


The year 1840 finds Mr. Lincoln entering his 
thirty-second year and still unmarried. " I have 
come to the conclusion," he suggests in a facetious 
letter, two years before, " never again to think of 
marrying." But meanwhile he had seen more of 
the world. The State Capital had been removed 
to Springfield, and he soon observed the power and 
influence one can exert with high family and social 
surroundings to draw upon. The sober truth is 
that Lincoln was inordinately ambitious. He had 
already succeeded in obtaining no inconsiderable 
political recognition, and numbered among his 
party friends men of wealth and reputation ; but he 
himself was poor, besides lacking the graces and 
ease of bearing obtained through mingling in polite 
society — in fact, to use the expressive language of 
Mary Owens, he was '' deficient in those little links 
which make up the chain of woman's happiness." 
Conscious, therefore, of his humble rank in the social 
scale, how natural that he should seek by mar- 
riage in an influential family to establish strong con- 
nections and at the same time foster his political 
fortunes ! This may seem an audacious thing to in- 
sinuate, but on no other basis can we reconcile the 
strange course of his courtship and the tempestuous 




chapters in his married life. It is a curious history, 
and the facts, long chained down, are gradually com- 
ing to the surface. When all is at last known, the 
world I believe will divide its censure between Lin- 
coln and his wife. 

Mary Todd, who afterwards became the wife of 
Mr. Lincoln, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, 
December 13, 1818. "My mother," related Mrs. 
Lincoln to me in 1865, " died when I was still young. 
I was educated by Madame Mantelli, a lady who 
lived opposite Mr. Clay's, and who was an accom- 
plished French scholar. Our conversation at school 
was carried on entirely in French — in fact we were 
allowed to speak nothing else. I finished my edu- 
cation at Mrs. Ward's Academy, an institution to 
which many people from the North sent their 
daughters. In 1837 ^ visited Springfield, Illinois, 
remaining three months. I returned to Kentucky, 
remaining till 1839, when I again set out for Illi- 
nois, which State finally became my home." 

The paternal grandfather of Mary Todd, General 
Levi Todd, was born in 1756, was educated in Vir- 
ginia, and studied law in the office of General Lewis 
of that State. He emigrated to Kentucky, was a 
lieutenant in the campaigns conducted by General 
George Rogers Clark against the Indians, and com- 
manded a battalion in the battle of Blue Licks, 
August 18, 1782, where his brother, John Todd, was 
killed. He succeeded Daniel Boone in command 
of the militia, ranking as major-general, and was 
one of the first settlers in Lexington, Ky. Febru- 
ary 25, 1779, he married Miss Jane Briggs. The 


seventh child of this union, born February 25, 179I, 
was Robert S. Todd, the father of Mrs. Lincoln. 
On her maternal side Mrs. Lincoln was highly con- 
nected. Her great-grandfather, General Andrew 
Porter, was in the war of the Revolution. He suc- 
ceeded Peter Muhlenberg as major-general of the 
Pennsylvania militia. Her great uncles, George B. 
Porter, who was governor of Michigan, James Mad- 
ison Porter, secretary of the navy under President 
Tyler, and David R. Porter, governor of Pennsyl- 
vania, were men of ability and distinction. Her 
mother, Anne Eliza Parker, was a cousin of her 
father, Robert S. Todd. The latter had served in 
both houses of the Kentucky Legislature, and for 
over twenty years was president of the Bank of 
Kentucky at Lexington. He died July 16, 1849. 

To a young lady in whose veins coursed the 
blood that had come down from this long and dis- 
tinguished ancestral line, who could even go back 
in the genealogical chart to the sixth century, Lin- 
coln, the child of Nancy Hanks, whose descent was 
dimmed by the shadow of tradition, was finally 
united in marriage. 

When Mary Todd came to her sister's house in 
Springfield in 1839, she was in her twenty-first year. 
She was a young woman of strong, passionate 
nature and quick temper, and had " left her home 
in Kentucky to avoid living under the same roof 
with a stepmother." ^ She came to live with her 
oldest sister, Elizabeth, who was the wife of Lin- 

* Mrs. Edwards, statement, Aug. 3, 18S7. 

194 ^-^^ LIFE OF LINCOLN. 

coin's colleague in the Legislature, Ninian W. 
Edwards. She had two other sisters, Frances, mar- 
ried to Dr. William Wallace, and Anne, who after- 
wards became the wife of C. M. Smith, a prominent 
and wealthy merchant. They all resided in Spring- 
field. She was of the average height, weighing 
when I first saw her about a hundred and thirty 
pounds. She was rather compactly built, had a well 
rounded face, rich dark-brown hair, and bluish-gray 
eyes. In her bearing she was proud, but handsome 
and vivacious. Her education had been in no wise 
defective ; she was a good conversationalist, using 
with equal fluency the French and English lan- 
guages. When she used a pen, its point was sure to 
be sharp, and she wrote with wit and ability. She 
not only had a quick intellect but an intuitive judg- 
ment of men and their motives. Ordinarily she 
was affable and even charming in her manners ; but 
when offended or antagonized, her agreeable quali- 
ties instantly disappeared beneath a wave of sting- 
ing satire or sarcastic bitterness, and her entire 
better nature was submerged. In her figure and 
physical proportions, in education, bearing, tempera- 
ment, history — in everything she was the exact 
reverse of Lincoln. 

On her return to Springfield she immediately 
entered society, and soon became one of the belles, 
leading the young men of the town a merry dance. 
She was a very shrewd observer, and discreetly and 
without apparent effort kept back all the unattrac- 
tive elements in her unfortunate organization. Her 
trenchant wit, affability, and candor pleased the 

Joshua Fry Speed and Wife. 

Fro7n an oil-pai7iti>ig in possession of the family. 


not less than her culture and varied 
accomplishments impressed the older ones with 
whom she came in contact. The first time I met 
her was at a dance at the residence of Col. Robert 
Allen, a gentleman mentioned in the preceding 
chapter. I engaged her for a waltz, and as we 
glided through it I fancied I never before had 
danced with a young lady who moved with such 
grace and ease. A few moments later, as we were 
promenading through the hall, I thought to com- 
pliment her graceful dancing by telling her that 
while I was conscious of my own awkward move- 
ments, she seemed to glide through the waltz with 
the ease of a serpent. The strange comparison was 
as unfortunate as it was hideous. I saw it in an 
instant, but too late to recall it. She halted 
for a moment, drew back, and her eyes flashed 
as she retorted : " Mr. Herndon, comparison to a 
serpent is rather severe irony, especially to a new- 

Through the influence of Joshua F. Speed, who 
was a warm friend of the Edwardses, Lincoln was 
led to call on Miss Todd. He was charmed with her 
wit and beauty, no less than by her excellent social 
qualities and profound knowledge of the strong and 
weak points in individual character. One visit suc- 
ceeded another. It was the old story. Lincoln 
had again fallen in love. '' I have often happened 
in the room where they were sitting," relates Mrs. 
Edwards, describing this courtship, '' and Mary 
invariably led the conversation. Mr. Lincoln would 
sit at her side and listen. He scarcely said a word. 


but gazed on her as if irresistibly drawn towards 
her by some superior and unseen power. He could 
not maintain himself in a continued conversation 
with a lady reared as Mary was. He was not edu- 
cated and equipped mentally to make himself either 
interesting or attractive to the ladies. He was a 
good, honest, and sincere young man whose rugged, 
manly qualities I admired ; but to me he somehow 
seemed ill-constituted by nature and education to 
please such a woman as my sister. Mary was quick, 
gay, and in the social world somewhat brilliant. 
She loved show and power, and was the most ambi- 
tious woman I ever knew. She used to contend 
when a girl, to her friends in Kentucky, that she 
was destined to marry a President. I have heard 
her say that myself, and after mingling in society in 
Springfield she repeated the seemingly absurd and 
idle boast. Although Mr. Lincoln seemed to be 
attached to Mary, and fascinated by her wit and 
sagacity, yet I soon began to doubt whether they 
could always be so congenial. In a short time I 
told Mary my impression that they were not suited, 
or, as some persons who believe matches are made 
in heaven would say, not intended for each other." 
But Mrs. Edwards' advice was seed sown on 
rocky soil. The courtship ran on smoothly to the 
point of engagement, when a new and disturb- 
ing element loomed up ahead in their paths. It 
was no less than the dashing and handsome Stephen 
A. Douglas, who now appeared on the scene in 
the guise of a rival. As a society man Douglas 
was infinitely more accomplished, more attractive 


and influential than Lincoln, and that he should 
supplant the latter in the affections of the proud 
and aristocratic Miss Todd is not to be marveled at. 
He was unremitting in his attentions to the lady, 
promenaded the streets arm-in-arm with her— 
frequently passing Lincoln— and in every way 
made plain his intention to become the latter's 
rival. There are those who believe this warm 
reciprocation of young Douglas' affection was a 
mere flirtation on Mary Todd's part, intended 
to spur Lincoln up, to make him more de- 
monstrative, and manifest his love more 
positively and with greater fervor. But a lady 
relative who lived with Lincoln and his wife for 
two years after their marriage is authority for the 
statement coming from Mrs. Lincoln herself that 
" she loved Douglas, and but for her promise to 
marry Lincoln would have accepted him." The 
unfortunate attitude she felt bound to maintain 
between these two young men ended in a spell of 
sickness. Douglas, still hopeful, was warm in the 
race, but the lady's physician,— her brother-in-law,— 
Dr. William Wallace, to whom she confided the 
real cause of her illness, saw Douglas and induced 
him to end his pursuit, ■^- which he did with great 

If Miss Todd intended by her flirtation with 
Douglas to test Lincoln's devotion, she committed 
a grievous error. If she believed, because he was 
ordinarily so undemonstrative, that he was without 

* Mrs. Harriett Chapman, statement, Nov. S, 1887. 


will-power and incapable of being aroused, she 
certainly did not comprehend the man. Lincoln 
began now to feel the sting. Miss Todd's spur had 
certainly operated and with awakening effect. One 
evening Lincoln came into our store and called for 
his warm friend Speed. Together they walked 
back to the fireplace, where Lincoln, drawing 
from his pocket a letter, asked Speed to read it. 
" The letter," relates Speed, ** was addressed to 
Mary Todd, and in it he made a plain statement of 
his feelings, telling her that he had thought the 
matter over calmly and with great deliberation, and 
now felt that he did not love her sufficiently to 
warrant her in marrying him. This letter he de- 
sired me to deliver. Upon my declining to do so 
he threatened to intrust it to some other person's 
hand. I reminded him that the moment he placed 
the letter in Miss Todd's hand, she would have the 
advantage over him. ' Words are forgotten,* I 
said, ' misunderstood, unnoticed in a private conver- 
sation, but once put your words in writing and they 
stand a living and eternal monument against you.* 
Thereupon I threw the unfortunate letter in the 
fire. ' Now,' I continued, *if you have the courage 
of manhood, go see Mary yourself ; tell her, if you 
do not love her, the facts, and that you will not 
marry her. Be careful not to say too much, and 
then leave at your earliest opportunity.' Thus 
admonished, he buttoned his coat, and with a rather 
determined look started out to perform the serious 
duty for which I had just given him explicit direc- 


That night Speed did not go upstairs to bed 
with us, but under pretense of wanting to read, 
remained in the store below. He was waiting for 
Lincoln's return. Ten o'clock passed, and still the 
interviev/ with Miss Todd had not ended. At 
length, shortly after eleven, he came stalking in. 
Speed was satisfied, from the length of Lincoln's 
stay, that his directions had not been followed. 

" Well, old fellow, did you do as I told you and 
as you promised?" were Speed's first words. 

"Yes, I did," responded Lincoln, thoughtfully, 
*'and when I told Mary I did not love her, she 
burst into tears and almost springing from her 
chair and wringing her hands as if in agony, said 
something about the deceiver being himself de- 
ceived." Then he stopped. 

"What else did you say?" inquired Speed, 
drawing the facts from him. 

'* To tell you the truth, Speed, it was too much 
for me. I found the tears trickling down my own 
cheeks. I caught her in my arms and kissed her." 

" And that's how you broke the engagement," 
sneered Speed. "You not only acted the fool, 
but your conduct was tantamount to a renewal of 
the engagement, and in decency you cannot back 
down now." 

"Well," drawled Lincoln, "if I am in again, so 
be it. It's done, and I shall abide by it." * 

Convinced now that Miss Todd regarded the 
engagement ratified, — instead of broken, as her tall 

* Statement, Joshua F. Speed, Sep. 17, 1866, MS. 


suitor had at first intended, — Lincoln continued his 
visits, and things moved on smoothly as before. 
Douglas had dropped out of the race, and every- 
thing pointed to an early marriage. It was prob- 
ably at this time that Mr. and Mrs. Edwards began 
to doubt the wisdom of the marriage, and now and 
then to intimate the same to the lady ; but they 
went no farther in their opposition and placed no 
obstacle in their paths. 

The time fixed for the marriage was the first day 
in January, 1841. Careful preparations for the 
happy occasion were made at the Edwards mansion. 
The house underwent the customary renovation ; 
the furniture was properly arranged, the rooms 
neatly decorated, the supper prepared, and the 
guests invited. The latter assembled on the evening 
in question, and awaited in expectant pleasure the 
interesting ceremony of marriage. The bride, be- 
decked in veil and silken gown, and nervously toy- 
ing with the flowers in her hair, sat in the adjoin- 
ing room. Nothing was lacking but the groom. 
For some strange reason he had been delayed. An 
hour passed, and the guests as well as the bride were 
becoming restless. But they were all doomed to 
disappointment. Another hour passed ; messengers 
were sent out over town, and each returning with 
the same report, it became apparent that Lincoln, 
the principal in this little drama, had purposely failed 
to appear ! The bride, in grief, disappeared to her 
room ; the wedding supper was left untouched ; the 
guests quietly and wonderingly withdrew ; the lights 
in the Edwards mansion were blown out, and dark- 


ness settled over all for the night. What the feel- 
ings of a lady as sensitive, passionate, and proud as 
Miss Todd were we can only imagine — no one can 
ever describe them. By daybreak, after persistent 
search, Lincoln's friends found him. Restless, 
gloomy, miserable, desperate, he seemed an object 
of pity. His friends, Speed among the number, 
fearing a tragic termination, watched him closely in 
their rooms day and night. '* Knives and razors, 
and every instrument that could be used for self- 
destruction were removed from his reach." ^ Mrs. 
Edwards did not hesitate to regard him as insane, 
and of course her sister Mary shared in that view. 
But the case was hardly so desperate. His condition 
began to improve after a few weeks, and a letter 
written to his partner Stuart, on the 23d of January, 
1841, three weeks after the scene at Edwards' house, 
reveals more perfectly how he felt. He says: "I 
am now the most miserable man living. If what 'I 
feel were equally distributed to the whole human 
family, there would not be one cheerful face on 
earth. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell ; 
I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is 
impossible. I must die or be better, as it appears 
to me. . . I fear I shall be unable to attend to any 
business here, and a change of scene might help me. 
If I could be myself I would rather remain at home 
with Judge Logan. I can write no more." 

During all this time the Legislature to which Lin^ 
coin belonged was in special session, but for a time 

* J. F. Speed, MS. letter, January 6, 1S66. 


he was unable to attend.* Towards the close 
of the session, however, he resumed his seat. He 
took little if any part in the proceedings, made no 
speeches, and contented himself with answers to 
the monotonous roll-call, and votes on a few of the 
principal measures. After the adjournment of the 
Legislature, his warm friend Speed, who had dis- 
posed of his interests in Springfield, induced Lin- 
coln to accompany him to Kentucky. Speed's 
parents lived in a magnificent place a few miles 
from Louisville. Their farm was well stocked, and 
they, in the current phrase, '' lived well." Thither 
he was taken, and there amid the quiet surroundings 
he found the "• change of scene " which he told 
Stuart might help him. He was living under the 
cloud of melancholia, and sent to the Sangamon 
Journal a few lines under the gloomy title of " Sui- 
cide." They were published in the paper, and a 
few years since I hunted over the files, and coming 
across the number containing them, was astonished 
to find that some one had cut them out. I have 
always supposed it was done by Lincoln or by some 
one at his instigation. 

Speed's mother was much impressed with the 
tall and swarthy stranger her son had brought 
with him. She was a God-fearing mother, and be- 
sides aiding to lighten his spirits, gave him a Bible, 

*His illness and consequent incapacity for duty in the Legislature, 
continued for almost three weeks. On the 19th of January, 1841, 
John J. Hardin announced his illness in the House. Four days 
afterward he wrote the letter to Stuart from which I have quoted 
a few lines. 


advising him to read it and by adopting its precepts 
obtain a release from his troubles which no other 
agency, in her judgment, could bring him. '' He was 
much depressed. At first he almost contemplated 
suicide. In the deepest of his depression he said one 
day he had done nothing to make any human being 
remember that he had lived ; and that to connect his 
name with the events transpiring in his day and gen- 
eration, and so impress himself upon them as to link 
his name with something that would redound to the 
interest of his. fellow-men, was what he desired to 
live for." * The congenial associations at the Speed 
farm^f the freedom from unpleasant reminders, 
the company of his staunch friend, and above all 
the motherly care and delicate attentions of Mrs. 
Speed exerted a marked influence over Lincoln. 
He improved gradually, day by day gaining strength 
and confidence in himself, until at last the great 
cloud lifted and passed away. In the fall he and 
Speed returned to Springfield. At this point, as 
affording us the most reliable account of Mr. Lin- 
coln's condition and views, it is proper to insert a por- 
tion of his correspondence with Mr. Speed. For 
some time Mr. Speed was reluctant to give these 

* Letter, J. F. Speed, February 9, 1S66, MS. 

t At the time of Lincoln's visit at the Speed mansion, James Speed, 
a brother of Joshua, and afterward Attorney-General in Lincoln's 
Cabinet, was practicing law in Louisville. Lincoln came into his 
office daily. " He read my books," related Mr. Speed in after years ; 
"talked with me about his life, his reading, his studies, his aspi- 
rations." Mr. Speed discredits the thought that Lincoln was insane 
at the time, although he understood he was saddened and melancholy 
over an unfortunate love affair. 

204 ^-^^ ^^^^ ^^ LINCOLN. 

letters to the world. After some argument, however, 
he at last shared my view that they were properly 
a matter of history, and sent them to me, accom- 
panied by a letter, in which he says : 

** I enclose you copies of all the letters of any 
interest from Mr. Lincoln to me. Some explanation 
may be needed that you may rightly understand 
their import. In the winter of 1840 and 1841, he 
was unhappy about his engagement to his wife — 
not being entirely satisfied that his heart was going 
with his hand. How much he suffered then on that 
account none knew so well as myself; he disclosed 
his whole heart to me."^ 

" In the summer of 1841 I became engaged to my 
wife. He was here on a visit when I courted her ; 
and, strange to say, something of the same feeling 
which I regarded as so foolish in him took posses- 
sion of me and kept me very unhappy from the time 
of my engagement until I was married. This will 
explain the deep interest he manifested in his letters 
on my account. 

*' One thing is plainly discernible ; if I had not 
been married and happy — far more happy than I 
ever expected to be — he would not have married.'* 

The first of these letters is one which he gave 

* Lincoln wrote a letter — a long one which he read to me — to Dr. 
Drake of Cincinnati, descriptive of his case. Its date would be in 
December, 1840, or early in January, 1841. I think that he must 
have informed Dr. Drake of his early love for Miss Rutledge, as 
there was a part of the letter which he would not read. . . I remem- 
ber Dr. Drake's reply, which was, that he would not undertake to 
prescribe for him without a personal interview." — Joshua F. Speed, 
MS. letter, November 30, 1866. 


Speed when the latter started on his journey from 
Illinois to Kentucky. It bears no date, but was 
handed him January i, 1842, as Speed has testified, 
in another letter to me, that he left Springfield on 
that day. It is full of consolation and advice how 
best to conduct himself when the periods of gloom 
which he feels sure will follow come upon his 
friend. ''I know," he says, "what the painful 
point with you is at all times when you are un- 
happy ; it is an apprehension that you do not love 
her as you should. What nonsense ! How came 
you to court her? . . . Did you court her for her 
wealth ? Why, you say she had none. But you say 
you reasoned yourself into it. What do you mean 
by that ? Was it not that you found yourself un- 
able to reason yourself out of it ? Did you not 
think, and partly form the purpose, of courting her 
the first time you ever saw her or heard of her ? 
What had reason to do with it at that early stage ? 
There was nothing at that time for reason to work 
upon. Whether she was moral, amiable, sensible, 
or even of good character, you did not nor could 
then know, except perhaps you might infer the last 
from the company you found her in. . , . Say 
candidly, were not those heavenly black eyes the 
whole basis of all your reasoning on the subject ? 
After you and I had once been at the residence, 
did you not go and take me all the way to Lexing- 
ton and back for no other purpose but to get to see 
her again on our return on that evening to take a 
trip for that express object ? " 

The next paragraph is significant as affording us 


an idea of how the writer perhaps viewed Miss 
Todd's flirtation with Douglas : *' What earthly- 
consideration," he asks, "" would you take to find her 
scouting and despising you and giving herself up to 
another ? But of this you need have no apprehen- 
sion, and therefore you cannot bring it home to 
your feelings." 

February 3, he writes again, acknowledging re- 
ceipt of a letter dated January 25. The object of 
Speed's affection had been ill, and her condition had 
greatly intensified his gloomy spirits. Lincoln prof- 
fers his sympathy. " I hope and believe," he con- 
tinues, ''that your present anxiety about her health 
and her life must and will forever banish those 
horrid doubts which I know you sometimes felt as 
to the truth of your affection for her. If they can 
once and forever be removed (and I almost feel a 
presentiment that the Almighty has sent your pres- 
ent affliction expressly for that object), surely noth- 
ing can come in their stead to fill their immeasur- 
able measure of misery . . . 

'* It really appears to me that you yourself ought 
to rejoice and not sorrow at this indubitable evi- 
dence of your undying affection for her. Why, 
Speed, if you did not love her, although you might 
not wish her death, you would most certainly be re- 
signed to it. Perhaps this point is no longer a ques- 
tion with you, and my pertinacious dwelling upon it 
is a rude intrusion upon your feelings. If so you 
must pardon me. You know the hell I have suf- 
fered on that point, and how tender I am upon it. 
You know I do not mean wrong. I have been quite 


clear of hypo since you left, even better than I was 
along in the fall." 

The next letter, February 13, was written on the 
eve of Speed's marriage. After assurances of his 
desire to befriend him in everything, he suggests : 
** But you will always hereafter be on ground that 
I have never occupied, and consequently, if advice 
were needed, I might advise wrong. I do fondly 
hope, however, that you will never again need any 
comfort from abroad ... I incline to think it 
probable that your nerves will occasionally fail you 
for awhile ; but once you get them firmly graded 
now, that trouble is over forever. If you went 
through the ceremony calmly or even with sufifi- 
cient composure not to excite alarm in any present, 
you are safe beyond question, and in two or three 
months, to say the most, will be the happiest of 

Meanwhile Lincoln had been duly informed of 
Speed's marriage, and on the 25th he responds: 
" Yours of the i6th, announcing that Miss Fanny 
and you are ' no more twain, but one flesh,' reached 
me this morning. I have no way of telling how 
much happiness I wish you both, though I believe 
you both can conceive it. I feel somewhat jealous 
of both of you now. You will be so exclusively 
concerned for one another that I shall be forgotten 
entirely ... I shall be very lonesome without 
you. How miserably things seem to be arranged 
in this world ! If we have no friends we have no 
pleasure; and if we have them we are sure to lose 
them, and be doubly pained by the loss." 


In another letter, written the same day, he says, " I 
have no doubt it is the peculiar misfortune of both 
you and me to dream dreams of Elysium far ex- 
ceeding all that anything earthly can realize. Far 
short of your dreams as you may be, no woman 
could do more to realize them than that same black- 
eyed Fanny. If you could but contemplate her 
through my imagination, it would appear ridiculous 
to you that any one should for a moment think of 
being unhappy with her. My old father used to 
have a saying, that, ' If you make a bad bargain 
hug it all the tighter,' and it occurs to me that if 
the bargain just closed can possibly be called a bad 
one it is certainly the most pleasant one for apply- 
ing that maxim to which my fancy can by any 
effort picture." 

Speed having now safely married, Lincoln's mind 
began to turn on things nearer home. His rela- 
tions with Mary Todd were still strained, but re- 
minders of his period of gloom the year before 
began now to bring her again into view. In a 
letter to Speed, March 27, he says : 

*'It cannot be told how it thrills me with joy to 
hear you say you are ' far happier than you ever 
expected to be.' That much, I know, is enough. I 
know you too well to suppose your expectations 
were not at least sometimes extravagant, and if the 
reality exceeds them all, I say, ' Enough, dear 
Lord.' I am not going beyond the truth when I 
tell you that the short space it took me to read 
your last letter gave me more pleasure than the 
total sum of all I have enjoyed since that fatal 


first of January, 1841. Since then it seems to me 
I should have been entirely happy but for the never- 
absent idea that there is one still unhappy whom I 
have contributed to make so. That kills my soul. 
I cannot but reproach myself for even wishing to be 
happy while she is otherwise. She accompanied a 
large party on the railroad cars to Jacksonville last 
Monday, and on her return spoke, so that I heard 
of it, of having enjoyed the trip exceedingly. God 
be praised for that ! " 

The last paragraph of this letter contains a bit of 
sentiment by Lincoln in acknowledgment of a violet. 
In the margin of the letter which he gave me, Speed 
made this note in pencil : "The violet was sent by 
my wife, who dropped it in the letter as I was in the 
act of sealing it. How beautiful the acknowledg- 
ment ! " This is the paragraph: *'The sweet 
violet you enclosed came safely to hand, but it was 
so dry, and mashed so flat, that it crumbled to dust 
at the first attempt to handle it. The juice that 
mashed out of it stained a place in the letter, which 
I mean to preserve and cherish for the sake of her 
who procured it to be sent. My renewed good 
wishes to her." 

Meanwhile the coldness that existed between 
Lincoln and his *'Mary" was gradually passing 
away, and with it went all of Lincoln's resolution 
never to renew the engagement. In a letter, July 4, 
he says : '' I must gain confidence in my own ability 
to keep my resolves when they are made. In that 
ability I once prided myself as the only chief gem 
of my character ; that gem I lost, how and where 


you know too well. I have not regained it ; and 
until I do I cannot trust myself in any matter of 
much importance. I believe now that had you 
understood my case at the time as well as I under- 
stood yours afterwards, by the aid you would have 
given me I should have sailed through clear ; but 
that does not now afford me sufificient confidence to 
begin that or the like of that again. ... I always 
was superstitious ; I believe God made me one of 
the instruments of bringing Fanny and you to- 
gether, which union I have no doubt he had fore- 
ordained. Whatever he designs he will do for me 
yet. * Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord,* 
is my text just now. If, as you say, you have told 
Fanny all, I should have no objection to her seeing 
this letter, but for its reference to our friend here ; 
let her seeing it depend upon whether she has ever 
known anything of my affairs ; and if she has 
not, do not let her. I do not think I can come to 
Kentucky this season. I am so poor and make so 
little headway in the world that I drop back in a 
month of idleness as much as I gain in a year's 

The last letter, and the one which closes this 
series, was written October 5, 1842. In it he simply 
announces his '' duel with Shields," and then goes 
on to '' narrate the particulars of the duelling busi- 
ness, which still rages in this city." This referred 
to a challenge from the belligerent Shields to 
William Butler, and another from General White- 
sides to Dr. Merryman. In the latter, Lincoln 
acted as the "friend of Merryman," but in neither 


case was there any encounter, and both ended in 
smoke. The concluding paragraph of this letter is 
the most singular in the entire correspondence. I 
give it entire without further comment : 

'' But I began this letter not for what I have 
been writing, but to say something on that subject 
which you know to be of such infinite solicitude to 
me. The immense sufferings you endured from 
the first days of September till the middle of Feb- 
ruary you never tried to conceal from me, and I 
well understood. You have now been the husband 
of a lovely woman nearly eight months. That you 
are happier now than the day you married her, I 
well know, for without, you could not be living. 
But I have your word for it, too, and the returning 
elasticity of spirits which is manifested in your 
letters. But I want to ask a close question : ' Are 
you in feeling as well as jiidgnient glad you are 
married as you are?' From anybody but me this 
would be an impudent question, not to be tolerated, 
but I know you will pardon it in me. Please 
answer it quickly, as I am impatient to know." 

Lincoln again applied himself to the law. He 
re-entered the practice, after the long hiatus of rest, 
with renewed vigor. He permitted the memory of 
his engagement with Mary Todd to trouble him no 
longer. Their paths had diverged, the pain of the 
separation was over, and the whole thing was a 
history of the past. And so it might ever have 
remained but for the intervention of a very shrewd 
and sagacious lady — one who was capable of 
achieving success anywhere in the ranks of diplo- 


macy. This lady was the wife of Simeon Francis, 
the editor of the Sa7igajno7i Journal. She was a 
warm friend of Mary Todd and a leader in society. 
Her husband was warmly attached to Lincoln. He 
ran the Whig organ, and entertained great admira- 
tion for Lincoln's brains and noble qualities. The 
esteem was mutual, and it is no stretch of the truth 
to say that for years Lincoln exercised undisputed 
control of the columns of the Jonr^ial himself. 
Whatever he wrote or had written, went into the 
editorial page without question. Mrs. Francis, 
sharing her husband's views of Lincoln's glorious 
possibilities, and desiring to do Mary Todd a 
kindly act, determined to bring about a reconcilia- 
tion. She knew that Miss Todd had by letter a 
few days after " that fatal first of January, 1841,*^ 
as Lincoln styled it, released him from the en- 
gagement, and that since then their relations had 
been strained, if not entirely broken off. As she 
viewed it, a marriage between a man as promising 
in the political world as Lincoln, and a woman as 
accomplished and brilliant in society as Mary Todd, 
would certainly add to the attractions of Spring- 
field and reflect great credit on those who brought 
the union about. She was a great social enter- 
tainer, and one day arranged a gathering at her 
house for the express purpose of bringing these 
two people together. Both were invited and both 
attended ; but neither suspected the other's pres- 
ence. Having arranged things so ingeniously and 
with so much discretion, it was no difficult task for 
the hostess to bring the couple together by a warm 



introduction and the encouraging admonition, ** Be 
friends again." Much to the surprise of both they 
found the web woven around them. They entered 
into the spirit of the reconciliation, and found Mrs. 
Francis' roof an inviting place for many succeeding 
meetings. A wall reared itself between them and 
the past, and they started again under the auspi- 
cious omens of another engagement. The tact of 
a woman and the diplomacy of society had accom- 
plished what love had long since despaired of ever 
doing or seeing done. 

The meetings in the parlor of Mrs. Francis' 
house were conducted with no little privacy. At 
first even Mrs. Edwards knew nothing of it, but 
presently it came to her ears. "■ I asked Mary," 
said this lady, '' why she was so secretive about it. 
She said evasively that after all that had occurred, it 
was best to keep the courtship from all eyes and 
ears. Men and women and the whole world were 
uncertain and slippery, and if misfortune befell the 
engagement all knowledge of it would be hidden 
from the world." * 

It is unnecessary to prolong the account of this 
strange and checkered courtship. The intervention 
of the affair with Shields, which will be detailed in 
a subsequent chapter, in no way impeded, if it did 
not hasten the marriage. One morning in Novem- 
ber, Lincoln, hastening to the room of his friend 
James H. Matheney before the latter had arisen 
from bed, informed him that he was to be married 

* Statement, January 10, 1866, MS. 


that night, and requested him to attend as best 
man.* That same morning Miss Todd called on her 
friend Julia M. Jayne, who afterward married 
Lyman Trumbull, and made a similar request. The 
Edwardses were notified, and made such meager 
preparations as were possible on so short notice. 
License was obtained during the day, the minister, 
Charles N. Dresser,f was sent for, and in the evening 
of November 4, 1842, "as pale and trembling as if 

*" Marriages in Springfield up to that time had been rather com- 
monplace affairs. Lincoln's was perhaps the first one ever performed 
with all the requirements of the Episcopal ceremony. A goodly 
number of friends had gathered, and while witnessing the ceremony 
one of the most amusing incidents imaginable occurred. No descrip- 
tion on paper can do it justice. Among those present was Thomas 
C. Thrown, one of the judges of the Supreme Court. He was in 
truth an " old-timer," and had the virtue of saying just what he 
thought, without regard to place or surroundings. He had been on 
the bench for many years and was not less rough than quaint and 
curious. There was, of course, a perfect hush in the room as the 
ceremony progressed. Brown was standing just behind Lincoln. 
Old Parson Dresser, in canonical robes, with much and impressive 
solemnity recited the Episcopal service. He handed Lincoln the 
ring, who, placing it on the bride's finger, repeated the Church 
formula, ' With this ring I thee endow with all my goods and chat- 
tels, lands and tenements.' Brown, who had never witnessed such a 
proceeding, was struck with its utter absurdity. * God Almighty! 
Lincoln,' he ejaculated, loud enough to be heard by all, ' the statute 
fixes all that ! ' This unlooked-for interruption almost upset the old 
parson ; he had a keen sense of the ridiculous, and for the moment it 
seemed as if he would break down ; but presently recovering his 
gravity, he hastily pronounced them husband and wife." — Letter, 
James H. Matheney, MS., Aug. 21, 18SS. 

t " My father. Rev. Charles Dresser, was a graduate of Brown 
University, Providence, R. I., of the class of 1823."— Thomas W, 
Dresser, MS. letter, Sept. 17, 1888. 



being driven to slaughter," Abraham Lincoln was 
at last married to Mary Todd."^ 

One great trial of his life was now over, and 
another still greater one was yet to come. To me 
it has always seemed plain that Mr. Lincoln mar- 
ried Mary Todd to save his honor, and in doing 
that he sacrificed his domestic peace. He had 
searched himself subjectively, introspectively, 
thoroughly : he knew he did not love her, but he 
had promised to marry her ! The hideous thought 
came up like a nightmare. As the '' fatal first of 
January, 1841," neared, the clouds around him 
blackened the heavens and his life almost went 
out with the storm. But soon the skies cleared. 
Friends interposed their aid to avert a calamity, and 
at last he stood face to face with the great conflict 
between honor and domestic peace. He chose the 
former, and with it years of self-torture, sacrificial 
pangs, and the loss forever of a happy home. 

With Miss Todd a different motive, but one 
equally as unfortunate, prompted her adherence to 
the union. To marry Lincoln meant not a life of 
luxury and ease, for Lincoln was not a man to ac- 
cumulate wealth ; but in him she saw position in soci- 
ety, prominence in the world, and the grandest so- 
cial distinction. By that means her ambition would 
be satisfied. Until that fatal New Year's day in 
1 841 she may have loved him, but his action on 

* While dressing for the wedding in his room at Butler's house, 
the latter's little boy, Speed, seeing Lincoln so handsomely attired, in 
boyish innocence asked him where he was going? "To hell, I sup- 
pose," was Lincoln's reply. 


that occasion forfeited her affection. He had 
crushed her proud, womanly spirit. She felt de- 
graded in the eyes of the world. Love fled at the 
approach of revenge. Some writer — it is Junius, I 
believe — has said that, " Injuries may be forgiven 
and forgotten, but insults admit of no compensation : 
they degrade the mind in its own self-esteem and 
force it to recover its level by revenge." Whether 
Mrs. Lincoln really was moved by the spirit of re- 
venge or not she acted along the lines of human 
conduct. She led her husband a wild and merry 
dance. If, in time, she became soured at the world 
it was not without provocation, and if in later years 
she unchained the bitterness of a disappointed and 
outraged nature, it followed as logically as an effect 
does the cause. 

I have told this sad story as I know and have 
learned it. In rehearsing the varied scenes of the 
drama,"^ I have unearthed a few facts that seem half- 

*For many years I had reason to believe that Sarah Rickard, who 
was a sister of Mrs. William Butler, had been the recipient of some 
attentions at the hand of Mr. Lincoln. The lady, long since mar- 
ried, is now living in a Western State. I applied to her for informa- 
tion recently, and after some entreaty received this answer in her 
own handwriting: "As an old friend I will answer the question 
propounded to me, though I can scarcely see what good it can do 
history, Mr. Lincoln did make a proposal of marriage to me in the 
summer, or perhaps later, in the year of 1840. He brought to my 
attention the accounts in the Bible of the patriarch Abraham's mar- 
riage to Sarah, and used that historical union as an argument in his 
own behalf. My reason for declining his proposal was the wide 
difference in our ages. I was then only sixteen, and had given the 
subject of matrimony but very little, if any, thought. I entertained 
the highest regard for Mr. Lincoln. He seemed almost like an 
older brother, being, as it were, one of my sister's family." 


buried, perhaps, but they were not destined to lay 
buried deep or long. The world will have the truth 
as long as the name of Lincoln is remembered by 

There were two things Mr. Lincoln always 
seemed willing to forget. One was his unparlia- 
mentary escape with Joseph Gillespie from the Leg- 
islature by jumping through the church window, in 
1839, ^"d the other was the difficulty with James 
Shields, or, as he expressed it in a letter to Speed, 
the ''duel with Shields." Other incidents in his 
career he frequently called up in conversation with 
friends, but in after years he seldom if ever referred 
to the affair with Shields. People in Illinois did 
gradually forget or, at least, cease mention of it, 
but in more remote quarters where Mr. Lincoln 
was less extensively known, the thing, much to his 
regret, kept rising to the surface. During a visit 
which I made to the Eastern States in 1858, I was 
often asked for an account of the so-called duel ; so 
often, in fact, that on my return home I told Mr. 
Lincoln of it. ** If all the good things I have ever 
done," he said regretfully, '' are remembered as long 
and well as my scrape with Shields, it is plain I shall 
not soon be forgotten." 

James Shields, a ''gallant, hot-headed bachelor 
from Tyrone county, Ireland," and a man of inor- 
dinate vanity, had been elected Auditor of State. 
Encouraged somewhat by the prominence the office 
gave him, he at once assumed a conspicuous posi- 
tion in the society of Springfield. He was ex- 
tremely sensitive by nature, but exposed himself to 


merciless ridicule by attempting to establish his 
supremacy as a beau among the ladies. Blind to 
his own defects, and very pronounced in support of 
every act of the Democratic party, he made himself 
the target for all the bitterness and ridicule of the 
day. It happened that the financial resources of 
the State, owing to the collapse of the great inter- 
nal improvement system, were exceedingly limited, 
and people were growing restless under what they 
deemed excessive taxation. The State ofificers were 
all Democrats, and during the summer they issued 
an order declining to receive any more State Bank- 
notes or bills in payment of taxes. This made the 
tax-payer's burdens greater than ever, as much of 
this paper remained outstanding in the hands of the 
people. The order met with opposition from every 
quarter — the Whigs of course losing no opportunity 
to make it as odious as possible. It was perfectly 
natural, therefore, that such an ardent Whig as 
Lincoln should join in the popular denunciation. 
Tlirough the columns of the Springfield Jotirnal, of 
which he had the undisputed use, he determined to 
encourage the opposition by the use of his pen. 
No object seemed to merit more ridicule and carica- 
ture than the conspicuous figure of the Auditor of 
State. At this time Lincoln was enjoying stolen 
conferences under the hospitable roof of Mrs. 
Francis with Mary Todd and her friend Julia M. 
Jayne. These two young ladies, to whom he con- 
fided his purpose, encouraged it and offered to lend 
their aid. Here he caught the idea of puncturing 


Shields. The thing took shape in an article pub- 
lished in \X\Q Journal, purporting to have come from 
a poor widow, who with her pockets full of State 
Bank paper was still unable to obtain the coveted 
receipt for her taxes. It was written by Lincoln 
and was headed : 

A Letter from the Lost Townships. 

Lost Townships, August 27,1842. 
Dear Mr. Printer, 

I see you printed that long letter I sent you a 
spell ago. I'm quite encouraged by it, and can't 
keep from writing again. I think the printing of 
my letters will be a good thing all round — it will 
give me the benefit of being known by the world, 
and give the world the advantage of knowing what's 
going on in the Lost Townships, and give your 
paper respectability besides. So here comes 
another. Yesterday afternoon I hurried through 
cleaning up the dinner dishes and stepped over to 

neighbor S to see if his wife Peggy was as well 

as mout be expected, and hear what they called the 
baby. Well, when I got there and just turned 
round the corner of his log cabin, there he was, set- 
ting on the doorstep reading a newspaper. *' How 
are you, Jeff? " says I. He sorter started when he 
heard me, for he hadn't seen me before. " Why," 
says he, "I'm mad as the devil. Aunt 'Becca!" 
''What about?" says I ; ''ain't its hair the right 
color? None of that nonsense, Jeff ; there ain't an 
honester women in the Lost Townships than " — 
"Than who?" says he; "what the mischief are 
you about?" I began to see I was running the 
wrong trail, and so says I, " Oh ! nothing: I guess 
I was mistaken a little, that's all. But what is it 
you're mad about ? " 

" Why," says he, " I've been tugging ever since 


harvest, getting out wheat and hauling it to the 
river to raise State Bank paper enough to pay my 
tax this year and a httle school debt I owe ; and 
now, just as I've got it, here I open this infernal 
Extra Register, expecting to find it full of ' Glo- 
rious Democratic Victories * and ' High Comb'd 
Cocks,' when, lo and behold ! I find a set of fellows, 
calling themselves officers of the State, have forbid- 
den the tax collectors and school commissioners to 
receive State paper at all ; and so here it is dead on 
my hands, I don't now believe all the plunder I've 
got will fetch ready cash enough to pay my taxes 
and that school debt." 

I was a good deal thunderstruck myself ; for that 
was the first I had heard of the proclamation, and 
my old man was pretty much in the same fix with 
Jeff. We both stood a moment staring at one 
another without knowing what to say. At last says 

I, " Mr. S , let me look at that paper." He 

handed it to me, when I read the proclamation 

'* There now," says he, " did you ever see such a 
piece of impudence and imposition as that?" I 
saw Jeff was in a good tune for saying some ill- 
natured things, and so I tho't I would just argue a 
little on the contrary side, and make him rant a 
spell if I could. " Why," says I, looking as digni- 
fied and thoughtful as I could, "■ it seems pretty 
tough, to be sure, to have to raise silver where 
there's none to be raised ; but then, you see, ' there 
will be danger of loss' if it ain't done." 

" Loss! damnation ! " says he. '* I defy Daniel 
Webster, I defy King Solomon, I defy the world — 
I defy — I defy — yes, I defy even you. Aunt 'Becca, 
to show how the people can lose anything by pay- 
ing their taxes in State paper." 

" Well," says I, '* you see what the officers of State 
say about it, and they are a desarnin* set of men. 


But," says I, '* I guess you're mistaken about what 
the proclamation says. It don't say the people will 
lose anything by the paper money being taken for 
taxes. It only says ' there will be danger of loss ' ; 
and though it is tolerable plain that the people can't 
lose by paying their taxes in something they can 
get easier than silver, instead of having to pay sil- 
ver ; and though it's just as plain that the State 
can't lose by taking State Bank paper, however low 
it may be, while she owes the bank more than the 
whole revenue, and can pay that paper over on her 
debt, dollar for dollar ; — still there is danger of loss 
to the 'officers of State* ; and you know, Jeff, we 
can't get along without officers of State." 

*' Damn officers of State ! " says he ; " that's what 
Whigs are always hurrahing for." 

" Now, don't swear so, Jeff," says I ; ''you know 
I belong to the meetin', and swearin' hurts my feel- 

" Beg pardon, Aunt 'Becca," says he ; " but I do 
say it's enough to make Dr. Goddard swear, to have 
tax to pay in silver, for nothing only that Ford may 
get his two thousand a year, and Shields his twenty- 
four hundred a year, and Carpenter his sixteen hun- 
dred a year, and all without ' danger of loss' by tak- 
ing it in State paper. Yes, yes : it's plain enough 
now what these officers of State mean by ' danger 
of loss.' Wash, I s'pose, actually lost fifteen hun- 
dred dollars out of the three thousand that two of 
these ' officers of State ' let him steal from the treas- 
ury, by being compelled to take it in State paper. 
Wonder if we don't have a proclamation before 
long, commanding us to make up this loss to Wash 
in silver." 

And so he went on till his breath run out, and he 
had to stop. I couldn't think of anything to say 
just then, and so I begun to look over the paper 


again. "Ay! here's another proclamation, or some- 
thing Hke it." 

"Another?" says Jeff; "and whose ^%% is it, 

I looked to the bottom of it, and read aloud, 
" Your obedient servant, James Shields, Auditor." 

"Aha!" says Jeff, "one of them same three fel- 
lows again. Well, read it, and let's hear what of 

I read on till I came to where it says, '' The object 
of this measure is to suspend the collection of the 
revenue for the current year." 

"Now stop, now stop !" says he; *' that's a lie 
a'ready, and I don't want to hear of it." 

" Oh ! may be not," says I. 

" I say it — is — a — lie. Suspend the collection, 
indeed ! Will the collectors, that have taken their 
oaths to make the collection, dare to suspend it? 
Is there anything in law requiring them to perjure 
themselves at the bidding of James Shields? 

" Will the greedy gullet of the penitentiary be sat- 
isfied with swallowing him instead of all of them, if 
they should venture to obey him? And would he 
not discover some ' danger of loss,' and be off about 
the time it came to taking their places? 

" And suppose the people attempt to suspend, 
by refusing to pay ; what then ? The collec- 
tors would just jerk up their horses and cows, and 
the like, and sell them to the highest bidder for 
silver in hand, without valuation or redemption. 
Why, Shields didn't believe that story himself: it 
was never meant for the truth. If it was true, why 
was it not writ till five days after the proclamation ? 
Why didn't Carlin and Carpenter sign it as well as 
Shields? Answer me that. Aunt 'Becca. I say it's 
a lie, and not a well told one at that. It grins out 
like a copper dollar. Shields is a fool as well as a 
liar. With him truth is out of the question ; and 


as for getting a good, bright, passable He out of 
him, you might as well try to strike fire from a cake 
of tallow. I stick to it, it's all an infernal Whig 

'' A Whig lie \ Highty tighty ! 
''Yes, a Whig lie; and it's just like everythmg 
the cursed British Whigs do. First they'll do some 
divilment, and then they' 11 tell a lie to hide it. 
And they don't care how plain a lie it is: they 
think they can cram any sort of a one down the 
throats of the ignorant Locofocos, as they call the 

'♦ Why, Jeff, you're crazy : you don't mean to say 
Shields is a Whig!" 
*' Yes, I do." 

" Why, look here ! the proclamation is in your 
own Democratic paper, as you call it." 

"I know it; and what of that? They only 
printed it to let us Democrats see the deviltry the 
Whigs are at." 

" Well, but Shields is the auditor of this Loco— 
I mean this Democratic State." 

" So he is, and Tyler appointed him to office." 
" Tyler appointed him ? " 

"Yes (if you must chaw it over), Tyler appointed 
him ; or, if it wasn't him, it was old Granny Harri- 
son, and that's all one. I tell you, Aunt 'Becca, 
there's no mistake about his being a Whig. Why, 
his very looks shows it ; everything about him shows 
it : if I was deaf and blind, I could tell him by the 
smell. I seed him when I was down in Springfield 
last winter. They had a sort of a gatherin' there one 
night among the grandees, they called a fair. All 
the gals about town was there, and all the handsome 
widows and married women, finickin' about trying 
to look like gals, tied as tight in the middle, and 
puffed out at both ends, like bundles of fodder that 
hadn't been stacked yet, but wanted stackin' pretty 


bad. And then they had tables all around the 
house kivered over with [ ] caps and pincush- 

ions and ten thousand such little knic-knacks, tryin' 
to sell 'em to the fellows that were bowin' and 
scrapin' and kungeerin' about 'em. They wouldn't 
let no Democrats in, for fear they'd disgust the 
ladies, or scare the little gals, or dirty the floor. I 
looked in at the window, and there was this same 
fellow Shields floatin' about on the air, without heft 
or earthly substances, just like a lock of cat fur 
where cats had been fighting. 

*' He was paying his money to this one, and that 
one, and t'other one, and sufferin' great loss because 
it wasn't silver instead of State paper; and the 
sweet distress he seemed to be in, — his very feat- 
ures, in the ecstatic agony of his soul, spoke audibly 
and distinctly, ' Dear girls, it is distressing, but I 
cannot marry you all. Too well I know how much 
you suffer ; but do, do remember, it is not my fault 
that I am so handsome and so interesting.' 

" As this last was expressed by a most exquisite 
contortion of his face, he seized hold of one of their 
hands, and squeezed, and held on to it about a quar- 
ter of an hour. ' Oh, my good fellow ! ' says I to 
myself, 'if that was one of our Democratic gals in 
the Lost Townships, the way you'd get a brass pin 
let into you would be about up to the head.' He 
a Democrat ! Fiddlesticks ! I tell you, Aunt 'Becca, 
he's a Whig, and no mistake : nobody but a Whig 
could make such a conceity dunce of himself." 

" Well," says I, " maybe he is ; but, if he is, I'm 
mistaken the worst sort. Maybe so, maybe so; 
but, if I am, I'll suffer by it ; I'll be a Democrat if 
it turns out that Shields is a Whig, considerin' you 
shall be a Whig if he turns out a Democrat." 

''A bargain, by jingoes!" says he; "but how 
will we find out ?" 


" Why," says I, '* we'll just write and ax the prin- 
ter." ' , , , .. 

*' Agreed again ! " says he ; '' and by thunder I if 
it does turn out that Shields is a Democrat, I never 

will" — 

'* Jefferson ! Jefferson ' '* 

" What do you want, Peggy ? " 

*' Do get through your everlasting clatter some 
time, and bring me a gourd of water ; the child's 
been crying for a drink this livelong hour." 

''Let it die, then; it may as well die for water as 
to be taxed to death to fatten officers of State." 

Jeff run off to get the water, though, just like he 
hadn't been saying anything spiteful for he's a 
raal good-hearted fellow, after all, once you get at 
the foundation of him. 

I walked into the house, and," Why, Peggy,'[^ says 
I, "I declare we like to forgot you altogether." 

♦*0h, yes," says she, " when a body can't help 
themselves, everybody soon forgets 'em; but, thank 
God! by day after to-morrow I shall be well 
enough to milk the cows, and pen the calves, and 
wring the contrary ones' tails for *em, and no 
thanks to nobody." 

" Good evening, Peggy," says I, and so I sloped, 
for I seed she was mad at me for making Jeff neg- 
lect her so long. 

And now, Mr. Printer, will you be sure to let us 
know in your next paper whether this Shields is a 
Whig or a Democrat ? I don't care about it for my 
self, for I know well enough how it is already ; but 
I want to convince Jeff. It may do some good to let 
him, and others like him, know who and what these 
officers of State are. It may help to send the pres- 
ent hypocritical set to where they belong, and to fill 
the places they now disgrace, with men who will do 
more work for less pay, and take a fewer airs while 
they are doing it. It ain't sensible to think that the 


same men who get us into trouble will change their 
course ; and yet it's pretty plain if some change for 
the better is not made, it's not long that either 
Peggy or I or any of us will have a cow left to 
milk, or a calf's tail to wring. 

Yours truly, 

Rebecca . 

Within a week another epistle from Aunt Re- 
becca appeared, in which, among other things, she 
offered the gallant Shields her hand. This one 
was written by Miss Todd and Miss Jayne. I 
insert it without further comment : 

Lost Townships, September 8, 1842. 
Dear Mr. Printer: 

I was a-standin' at the spring yesterday a-wash- 
in' out butter when I seed Jim Snooks a-ridin' up 
towards the house for very life, when, jist as I was 
a-wonderin' what on airth was the matter with him, 
he stops suddenly, and ses he, "Aunt 'Becca, here's 
somethin' for you ;" and with that he hands out 
your letter. Well, you see, I steps out towards 
him, not thinkin' that I had both hands full of but- 
ter; and seein' I couldn't take the letter, you know, 
without greasin' it, I ses, *' Jim, jist you open it, and 
read it for me." Well, Jim opens it and reads it ; 
and would you believe it, Mr. Editor, I was so com- 
pletely dumfounded and turned into stone that 
there I stood in the sun a-workin' the butter, and 
it a-running on the ground, while he read the letter, 
that I never thunk what I was about till the hull 
on't run melted on the ground and was lost. Now, 
sir, it's not for the butter, nor the price of the but- 
ter, but, the Lord have massy on us, I wouldn't 
have sich another fright for a whole firkin of it. 
Why, when I found out that it was the man what 
Jeff seed down to the fair that had demanded the 


author of my letters, threatnin' to take personal 
satisfaction of the writer, I was so skart that I tho't 
I should quill-wheel right where I was. 

You say that Mr. S is offended at being 

compared to cats* fur, and is as mad as a March hare 
(that ain't fur), because I told about the squeezin'. 

Now I want you to tell Mr. S that, rather 

than fight, I'll make any apology ; and, if he wants 
personal satisfaction, let him only come here, and 
he may squeeze my hand as hard as I squeezed the 
butter, and, if that ain't personal satisfaction, I can 
only say that he is the fust man that was not sat- 
isfied with squeezin' my hand. If this should not 
answer, there is one thing more that I would 
rather do than get a lickin'. I have long expected 
to die a widow ; but, as Mr. S is rather good- 
looking than otherwise, I must say I don't care if 
we compromise the matter by — really, Mr. Printer, 
I can't help blushin' — but I — it must come out — I — 
but widowed modesty — well, if I must, I must — 
wouldn't he — may be sorter let the old grudge drap 
if I was to consent to be — be— h-i-s w-i-f-e ? I know 
he's a fightin' man, and would rather fight than 
eat ; but isn't marryin' better than fightin', though 
it does sometimes run in to it? And I don't think, 
upon the whole, that I'd be sich a bad match 
neither: I'm not over sixty, and am jist four feet 
three in my bare feet, and not much more around 
the girth ; and for color, I wouldn't turn my back 
to nary a gal in the Lost Townships. But, after 
all, maybe I'm countin' my chickins before they are 
hatched, and dreamin' of matrimonial bliss when the 
only alternative reserved for me may be a lickin'. 
Jeff tells me the way these fire-eaters do is to give 
the challenged party choice of weapons, etc., which 
bein' the case, I'll tell you in confidence that I 
never fights with anything but broomsticks or hot 
water or a shovelful of coals or some such thin<j; 


the former of which, being somewhat like a shilla- 
lah, may not be very objectional to him. I will give 
him choice, however, in one thing, and that is, 
whether, when we fight, I shall wear breeches or 
he petticoats, for, I presume that change is suffi- 
cient to place us on an equality. 

Yours, etc., 

Rebecca . 

p. S. — Jist say to your friend, if he concludes to 
marry rather than fight, I shall only inforce one 
condition, that is, if he should ever happen to 
gallant any young gals home of nights from our 
house, he must not squeeze their hands. 

Not content with their epistolary efforts, the 
ladies invoked the muse. '' Rebecca" doftly trans- 
formed herself into *' Cathleen," and in jingling 
rhyme sang the praises of Shields, and congratulated 
him over the prospect of an early marriage to the 
widow. Following are the verses, rhyme, metre, 
and all : 

Ye Jew's-harps awake ! The Auditor's won. 
Rebecca the widow has gained Erin's son; 
The pride of the north from Emerald Isle 
Has been wooed and won by a woman's smile. 
The combat's relinquished, old loves all forgot : 
To the widow he's bound. Oh, bright be his lot ! 
In the smiles of the conquest so lately achieved. 
Joyful be his bride, "widowed modesty " relieved, 
The footsteps of time tread lightly on flowers, 
May the cares of this world ne'er darken his hours ! 
But the pleasures of life are fickle and coy 
As the smiles of a maiden sent off to destroy. 
Happy groom ! in sadness far distant from thee 
The fair girls dream only of past times of glee 



Enjoyed in thy presence ; whilst the soft blarnied store 
Will be fondly remembered as relics of yore, 
And hands that in rapture you oft would have pressed, 
In prayer will be clasped that your lot may be blest. 


The satire running through these various com- 
positions, and the publicity their appearance in the 
Journal gave them, had a most wonderful effect on 
the vain and irascible Auditor of State. He could no 
longer endure the merriment and ridicule that met 
him from every side. A man of cooler head might 
have managed it differently, but in the case of a 
high-tempered man like Shields he felt that his 
integrity had been assailed and that nothing but 
an "affair of honor" would satisfy him. Through 
General John D. Whiteside he demanded of edi- 
tor Francis the name of the author. The latter 
hunted up Lincoln, who directed him to give his 
name and say nothing about the ladies. The fur- 
ther proceedings in this grotesque drama were so 
graphically detailed by the friends of both parties 
in the columns of the Journal at that time, that I 
copy their letters as a better and more faithful 
narrative than can be obtained from any other 
source. The letter of Shields* second, General 
Whiteside, appearing first in the Journal, finds the 
same place in this chapter : 

''SrRiNGFiELD, Oct. 3, 1842. 
" To the Editor oj the Sangamon Journal : 

" Sir : To prevent misrepresentation of the 
recent affair between Messrs. Shields and Lincoln, 
I think it proper to give a brief narrative of the 


facts of the case, as they came within my knowl- 
edge ; for the truth of which I hold myself respon- 
sible, and request you to give the same pub- 
lication. An offensive article in relation to Mr. 
Shields appeared in the Smigavion Journal of the 
2d of September last ; and, on demanding the 
author, Mr. Lincoln was given up by the editor. 
Mr. Shields, previous to this demand, made 
arrangements to go to Quincy on public business ; 
and before his return Mr. Lincoln had left for 
Tremont to attend the court, with the intention, 
as we learned, of remaining on the circuit several 
weeks. Mr. Shields, on his return, requested me to 
accompany him to Tremont ; and, on arriving 
there, we found that Dr. Merryman and Mr. Butler 
had passed us in the night, and got there before us. 
We arrived in Tremont on the 17th ult., and Mr. 
Shields addressed a note to Mr. Lincoln immedi- 
ately, informing him that he was given up as the 
author of some articles that appeared in the Sanga- 
mon Journal (one more over the signature having 
made its appearance at this time), and requesting 
him to retract the offensive allusions contained in 
said articles in relation to his private character. 
Mr. Shields handed this note to me to deliver to 
Mr. Lincoln, and directed me, at the same time, 
not to enter into any verbal communication, or be 
the bearer of any verbal explanation, as such were 
always liable to misapprehension. This note was 
delivered by me to Mr. Lincoln, stating, at the 
same time, that I would call at his convenience for 
an answer. Mr. Lincoln, in the evening of the 
same day, handed me a letter addressed to Mr. 
Shields. In this he gave or offered no explanation, 
but stated therein that he could not submit to 
answer further, on the ground that Mr. Shields's 
note contained an assumption of facts and also a 
menace. Mr. Shields then addressed him another 


note, in which he disavowed all intention to men- 
ace, and requested to know whether he (Mr. Lin- 
coln) was the author of either of the articles which 
appeared in the Journal, headed ' Lost Townships,* 
and signed 'Rebecca'; and, if so, he repeated his 
request of a retraction of the offensive matter in 
relation to his private character; if not, his denial 
would be held sufficient. This letter was returned 
to Mr. Shields unanswered, with a verbal statement 
' that there could be no further negotiation be- 
tween them until the first note was withdrawn.* 
Mr. Shields thereupon sent a note designating me 
as a friend, to which Mr. Lincoln replied by desig- 
nating Dr. Merryman. These three last notes 
passed on Monday morning, the 19th. Dr. Merry- 
man handed me Mr. Lincoln's last note when by 
ourselves. I remarked to Dr. Merryman that the 
matter was now submitted to us, and that I would 
propose that he and myself should pledge our 
words of honor to each other to try to agree upon 
terms of amicable arrangement, and compel our 
principals to accept of them. To this he readily 
assented, and we shook hands upon the pledge. It 
was then mutually agreed that we should adjourn 
to Springfield, and there procrastinate the matter, 
for the purpose of effecting the secret arrangement 
between him and myself. All this I kept concealed 
from Mr. Shields. Our horse had got a little lame 
in going to Tremont, and Dr. Merryman invited me 
to take a seat in his buggy. I accepted the invita- 
tion the more readily, as I thought that leaving 
Mr. Shields in Tremont until his horse would be in 
better condition to travel would facilitate the pri- 
vate agreement between Dr. Merryman and myself. 
I travelled to Springfield part of the way with him, 
and part with Mr. Lincoln ; but nothing passed 
between us on the journey in relation to the matter 
in hand. We arrived in Springfield on Monday 



night. About noon on Tuesday, to my astonish- 
ment, a proposition was made to meet in Missouri, 
within three miles of Alton, on the next Thursday ! 
The weapons, cavalry broadswords of the largest 
size ; the parties to stand on each side of a barrier, 
and to be confined to a limited space. As I had 
not been consulted at all on the subject, and con- 
sidering the private understanding between Dr. 
Merry man and myself, and it being known that Mr. 
Shields was left at Tremont, such a proposition 
took me by surprise. However, being determined 
not to violate the laws of the State, I declined 
agreeing upon the terms until we should meet in 
Missouri. Immediately after, I called upon Dr. 
Merryman and withdrew the pledge of honor be- 
tween him and myself in relation to a secret arrange- 
ment. I started after this to meet Mr. Shields, and 
met him about twenty miles from Springfield. It 
was late on Tuesday night when we both reached the 
city and learned that Dr. Merryman had left for 
Missouri, Mr. Lincoln having left before the propo- 
sition was made, as Dr. Merryman had himself 
informed me. The time and place made it neces- 
sary to start at once. We left Springfield at eleven 
o'clock on Tuesday night, travelled all night, and 
arrived in Hillsborough on Wednesday morning, 
where we took in General Ewing. From there we 
went to Alton, where we arrived on Thursday; and, 
as the proposition required three friends on each 
side, I was joined by General Ewing and Dr. Hope, 
as the friends of Mr. Shields. We then crossed to 
Missouri, where a proposition was made by General 
Hardin and Dr. English (who had arrived there in 
the mean time as mutual friends) to refer the 
matter to, I think, four friends for a settlement. 
This I believed Mr. Shields would refuse, and de- 
clined seeing him ; but Dr. Hope, who conferred 
with him upon the subject, returned and stated that 


Mr. Shields declined settling the matter through 
any other than the friends he had selected to stand 
by him on that occasion. The friends of both the 
parties finally agreed to withdraw the papers (tem- 
porarily) to give the friends of Mr. Lmcoln an 
opportunity to explain. Whereupon the friends of 
Mr. Lincoln, to wit, Messrs. Merryman, Bledsoe, 
and Butler, made a full and satisfactory explanation 
in relation to the article which appeared in the 
Sangamon Journal oi the 2d, the only one written 
by him. This was all done without the knowledge 
or consent of Mr. Shields, and he refused to ac- 
cede to it, until Dr. Hope, General Ewing, and 
myself declared the apology sufficient, and that we 
could not sustain him in going further. I think it 
necessary to state further, that no explanation or 
apology had been previously offered on the part of 
Mr. Lincoln to Mr. Shields, and that none was ever 
communicated by me to him, nor was any even 
offered to me, unless a paper read to me by Dr 
Merryman after he had handed me the broadsword 
proposition on Tuesday. 1 heard so little of the 
reading of the paper, that I do not know fully what 
it purported to be ; and I was the less inclined to 
inquire, as Mr. Lincoln was then gone to Missouri, 
and Mr. Shields not yet arrived from Tremont. In 
fact, I could not entertain any offer of the kind, 
unless upon my own responsibility; and that I was 
not disposed to do after what had already trans- 
pired. , ^ , 

''I make this statement, as I am about to be 
absent for some time, and I think it due to all con- 
cerned to give a true version of the matter before I 


*' Your obedient servant, 

''John D. Whiteside." 

234 ^-^^ L^P^ OF LINCOLN. 

Springfield, October 8, 1842. 
Editors of the Jo2trnal : 

Gents : — By your paper of Friday, I discover 
that General Whiteside has published his version of 
the late affair between Messrs. Shields and Lincoln, 
I now bespeak a hearing of my version of the same 
affair, which shall be true and full as to all mate- 
rial facts. 

On Friday evening, the i6th of September, I 
learned that Mr. Shields and General Whiteside had 
started in pursuit of Mr. Lincoln, who was at Tre- 
mont, attending court. I knew that Mr. Lincoln 
was wholly unpractised both as to the diplomacy 
and weapons commonly employed in similar affairs ; 
and I felt it my duty, as a friend, to be with him, 
and, so far as in my power, to prevent any advantage 
being taken of him as to either his honor or his lite. 
Accordingly, Mr. Butler and myself started, passed 
Shields and Whiteside in the night, and arrived at 
Tremont ahead of them on Saturday morning. I 
told Mr. Lincoln what was brewing, and asked him 
what course he proposed to himself. He stated 
that he was wholly opposed to duelling, and would 
do anything to avoid it that might not degrade him 
in the estimation of himself and friends ; but, if 
such degradation or a fight were the only alterna- 
tives, he would fight. 

In the afternoon Shields and Whiteside arrived, 
and very soon the former sent to Mr. Lincoln, by 
the latter, the following note or letter: — 

Tremont, September 17, 1842. 
A. Lincoln, Esq. : — I regret that my absence on 
public business compelled me to postpone a matter of 
private consideration a little longer than I could have 
desired. It will only be necessary, however, to account 
for it by informing you that I have been to Quincy on 
business that would not admit of delay. 1 will now 
state briefly the reasons of my troubling you with this 


communication, the disagreeable nature of wliich I regret, 
as I had hoped to avoid any difficulty with any one in 
Springfield while residing there, by endeavoring to conduct 
myself in such a way amongst both my political friends 
and opponents, as to escape the necessity of any. Whilst 
thus abstaining from giving provocation, I have become 
the object of slander, vituperation, and personal abuse 
which, were 1 capable of submitting to, I would prove 
myself worthy of the whole of it. 

In two or three of the last numbers of the Sangamon 
Journal, articles of the most personal nature, and calcu- 
lated to degrade me, have made their appearance. On 
inquiring, I was informed by the editor of that paper, 
through the medium of my friend, General Whiteside, that 
you are the author of those articles. This information 
satisfies me that I have become, by some means or other, 
the object of secret hostility. I will not take the trouble 
of inquiring into the reason of all this, but I will take 
the liberty of requiring a full, positive, and absolute re- 
traction of all offensive allusions used by you in these 
communications, in relation to my private character and 
standing as a man, as an apology for the insults con- 
veyed in them. 

This may prevent consequences which no one will 
regret more than myself. 

Your ob't serv't, 

Jas. Shields. 

About sunset, General Whiteside called again, 
and secured from Mr. Lincoln the following an- 
swer to Mr. Shields's note : — 

Tremont, September 17, 1842. 
Jas. Shields, Esq. :— Your note of to-day was handed 
me by General Whiteside. In that note you say you 
have been informed, through the medium of the editor of 
the Journal, that I am the author of certain ^ arlicles in 
that paper which you deem personally abusive of you ; 
and, without stopping to inquire whether I really am the 
author, or to point out what is offensive in them, you 


demand an unqualified retraction of all that is offensive, 
and then proceed to hint at consequences. 

Now, sir, there is in this so much assumption of facts, 
and so much of menace as to consequences, that I cannot 
submit to answer that note any further than I have, and 
to add, that the consequences to which I suppose you 
allude would be matter of as great regret to me as it pos- 
sibly could to you. 


A. Lincoln. 

In about an hour. General Whiteside called again 
with another note from iMr. Shields ; but after con- 
ferring with Mr. Butler for a long time, say two or 
three hours, returned without presenting the note 
to Mr. Lincoln. This Vv'as in consequence of an 
assurance from Mr. Butler that Mr. Lincoln could 
not receive any communication from Mr. Shields, 
unless it were a withdrawal of his first note, or a 
challenge. Mr. Butler further stated to General 
Whiteside, that, on the withdrawal of the first note, 
and a proper and gentlemanly request for an ex- 
planation, he had no doubt one would be given. 
General Whiteside admitted that that was the 
course Mr. Shields ought to pursue, but deplored 
that his furious and intractable temper prevented 
his having any influence with him to that end. 
General Whiteside then requested us to wait with 
him until Monday morning, that he might endeavor 
to bring Mr. Shields to reason. 

On Monday morning he called and presented Mr. 
Lincoln the same note as Mr. Butler says he had 
brought on Saturday evening. It was as fol- 
lows : — 

Tremont, September 17, 1842. 
A. Lincoln, Esq. : — In your reply to my note of this 
date, you intimate that I assume facts and menace con- 
sequences, and that you cannot submit to answer it 
further. As now, sir, you desire it, I will be a little more 


Gen. James Shields. 

Photographed in 1871. 



particular. The editor of the Sangaition Jour?ial gave me 
to understand that you are the author of an article which 
appeared, I think, in that paper of the 2d September inst., 
headed "The Lost Townships " and signed Rebecca or 
'Becca. I would therefore take the liberty of asking 
whether you are the author of said article, or any other 
of the same signature which has appeared in any of the 
late numbers of that paper. If so, I repeat my request of 
an absolute retraction of all offensive allusions contained 
therein in relation to my private character and standing. 

If you are not the author of any of the articles, your 
denial will be sufficient. I will say further, it is not my 
intention to menace, but to do myself justice. 
Your ob't serv't, 

Jas. Shields. 

This Mr. Lincoln perused, and returned to General 
Whiteside, telling him verbally, that he did not 
think it consistent with his honor to negotiate for 
peace with Mr. Shields, unless Mr. Shields would 
withdraw his former offensive letter. 

In a very short time General Whiteside called with 
a note from Mr. Shields, designating General White- 
side as his friend, to which Mr. Lincoln instantly 
replied designating me as his. On meeting General 
Whiteside, he proposed that we should pledge our 
honor to each other that we would endeavor to 
settle the matter amicably; to which I agreed, and 
stated to him the only conditions on which it could 
be settled ; viz., the withdrawal of Mr. Shields's first 
note, which he appeared to think reasonable, and 
regretted that the note had been written, saying 
however, that he had endeavored to prevail on Mr. 
Shields to write a milder one, but had not suc- 
ceeded. He added, too, that I must promise not 
to mention it, as he would not dare to let Mr. 
Shields know that he was negotiating peace ; for, 
said he, " He would challenge me next, and as soon 
cut my throat as not." Not willing that he should 


suppose my principal less dangerous than his own, 
I promised not to mention our pacific intentions to 
Mr. Lincoln or any other person ; and we started 
for Springfield forthwith. 

We all, except Mr. Shields, arrived in Springfield 
late at night on Monday. We discovered that the 
affair had, somehow, got great publicity in Spring- 
field, and that an arrest was probable. To prevent 
this, it was agreed by Mr. Lincoln and myself that 
he should leave early on Tuesday morning. Ac- 
cordingly, he prepared the following instructions 
for my guide, on a suggestion from Mr. Butler that 
he had reason to believe that an attempt would be 
made by the opposite party to have the matter 
accommx)dated : 

In case Whiteside shall signify a wish to adjust 
this affair without further difficulty, let him know 
that, if the present papers be withdrawn, and a 
note from Mr. Shields asking to know if I am the 
author of the articles of which he complains, and 
asking that I shall make him gentlemanly satisfac- 
tion if I am the author, and this without menace 
or dictation as to what that satisfaction shall be, 
a pledge is made that the following answer shall 
be given : 

'' I did write the ' Lost Township ' letter which 
appeared in X.h.Q Journal of the 2d inst., but had no 
participation in any form in any other article allud- 
ing to you. I wrote that wholly for political effect. 
I had no intention of injuring your personal or 
private character, or standing as a man or a gentle- 
man ; and I did not then think, and do not now 
think, that that article could produce, or has pro- 
duced, that effect against you ; and had I antici- 
pated such an effect, I would have forborne to write 
it. And I will add, that your conduct towards me, 
so far as I knew, had always been gentlemanly, and 


that I had no personal pique against you, and no 
cause for any." 

If this should be done, I leave it with you to 
manage what shall and what shall not be published. 
If nothing like this is done, the preliminaries of 
the fight are to be : 

1st. Weapons -.—Cavalry broadswords of the 
largest size, precisely equal in all respects, and such 
as now used by the cavalry company at Jackson- 

2d. Position :— A plank ten feet long, and from 
nine to twelve inches broad, to be firmly fixed on 
edge on the ground as the lines between us, which 
neither is to pass his foot over upon forfeit of his 
life. Next, a. line drawn on the ground on either 
side of said plank and parallel with it, each at the 
distance of the whole length of the sword and three 
feet additional from the plank; and the passing of 
his own such line by either party during the fight 
shall be deemed a surrender of the contest. 

3d. Time :— On Thursday evening at five o'clock, 
if you can get it so ; but in no case to be at a 
greater distance of time than Friday evening at S 

4th. Place -.—Within three miles of Alton, on 
the opposite side of the river, the particular spot to 
be agreed on by you. 

Any preliminary details coming within the above 
rules, you are at liberty to make at your discretion ; 
but you are in no case to swerve from these rules, 
or to pass beyond their limits. 

In the course of the forenoon I met General 
Whiteside, and he again intimated a wish to adjust 
the matter amicably. I then read to him Mr. Lin- 
coln's instructions to an adjustment, and the terms 
of the hostile meeting, if there must be one, both at 
the same time. 

He replied that it was useless to talk of an ad- 


justment, if it could only be effected by the with- 
drawal of Mr. Shields's paper, for such withdrawal 
Mr. Shields would never consent to ; adding, that 
he would as soon think of asking i\Ir. Shields to 
"butt his brains out against a brick wall as to with- 
draw that paper." He proceeded : " I see but one 
course — that is a desperate remedy: 'tis to tell 
them, if they will not make the matter up, they 
must fight us." I replied, that, if he chose to fight 
Mr. Shields to compel him to do right, he might do 
so ; but as for Mr. Lincoln, he was on the defensive, 
and, I believe, in the right, and I should do nothing 
to compel him to do wrong. Such withdrawal 
having been made indispensable by Mr. Lincoln, I 
cut the matter short as to an adjustment, and I 
proposed to General Whiteside to accept the terms 
of the fight, which he refused to do until Mr. Shields' 
arrival in town, but agreed, verbally, that Mr. Lin- 
coln's friends should procure the broadswords, and 
take them to the ground. In the afternoon he 
came to me, saying that some persons were swear- 
ing out affidavits to have us arrested, and that he 
intended to meet Mr. Shields immediately, and 
proceed to the place designated, lamenting, how- 
ever, that I would not delay the time, that he might 
procure the interference of Governor Ford and Gen- 
eral Ewing to mollify Mr. Shields. I told him that 
an accommodation, except upon the terms I men- 
tioned, was out of question ; that to delay the 
meeting was to facilitate our arrest ; and, as I was 
determined not to be arrested, I should leave the 
town in fifteen minutes. I then pressed his accept- 
ance of the preliminaries, which he disclaimed upon 
the ground that it would interfere with his oath of 
office as Fund Commissioner. I then, with two 
other friends, went to Jacksonville, where we joined 
Mr. Lincoln about ii o'clock on Tuesday night. 
Wednesday morning we procured the broadswords. 


and proceeded to Alton, where we arrived about II 
o'clock A. M., on Thursday. The other party were 
in town before us. We crossed the river, and they 
soon followed. Shortly after, General Hardin and 
Dr. English presented to General Whiteside and 
myself the following note : 

Alton, September 22, 1842. 

Messrs. Whiteside and Merryman : As the mutual 
personal friends of Messrs. Shields and Lincoln, but with- 
out authority from either, we earnestly desire to see a 
reconciliation of the misunderstanding which exists be- 
tween them. Such difficulties should always be arranged 
amicably, if it is possible to do so with honor to both 

Believing, ourselves, that such an arrangement can 
possibly be effected, we respectfully but earnestly sub- 
mit the following proposition for your consideration : 

Let the whole difficulty be submitted to four or more 
gentlemen, to be selected by ourselves, who shall con- 
sider the affair, and report thereupon for your considera- 
tion. John J. Hardin, 

R. W. English. 

To this proposition General Whiteside agreed : I 
declined doing so without consulting Mr. Lincoln. 
Mr. Lincoln rema-rked that, as they had accepted 
the proposition, he would do so, but directed 
that his friends should make no terms except those 
first proposed. Whether the adjustment was finally 
made upon these very terms and no other, let the 
following documents attest : 

Missouri, September 22, 1842. 
Gentlemen : — All papers in relation to the matter in 
controversy between Mr. Shields and Mr. Lincoln having 
been withdrawn by the friends ot the parties concerned, 
the friends of Mr. Shields ask the friends of Mr. Lincoln 
to explain all offensive matter in the articles which ap- 


peared in the Sanga^non Journal, of the 2d, 9th, and i6th 
of September, under the signature of " Rebecca," and 
headed " Lost Townships." 

It is due General Hardin and Mr. Enghsh to state 
that their interference was of the most courteous and 
gentlemanly character. 

John D. Whiteside. 

Wm. Lee D. Ewing. 

T. M. Hope. 

Missouri, September 22, 1842. 
Gentlemen : — All papers in relation to the matter in 
controversy between Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Shields having 
been withdrawn by the friends of the parties concerned, 
we, the undersigned, friends of Mr. Lincoln, in accord- 
ance with your request that explanation of Mr. Lincoln's 
publication in relation to Mr. Shields in the Saiigcmwn 
Journal oi the 2d, 9th, and i6th of September be made, 
take pleasure in saying, that, although Mr. Lincoln was 
the writer of the article signed " Rebecca " in the Jour- 
7ial oi the 2d, and that only, yet he had no intention of 
injuring the personal or private character or standing of 
Mr. Shields as a gentleman or a man, and that Mr. Lin- 
coln did not think, nor does he now think, that said arti- 
cle could produce such an effect ; and, had Mr. Lincoln an- 
ticipated such an effect, he would have forborne to write 
it. We will state further, that said article was written 
solely for political effect, and not to gratify any personal 
pique against Mr. Shields, for he had none and knew 
of no cause for any. It is due to General Hardin and 
Mr. English to say that their interference was of the most 
courteous and gentlemanly character. 

E. H. Merryman. 

A. T. Bledsoe. 

Wm. Butler. 

Let it be observed now, that Mr. Shields's friends, 
after agreeing to the arbitrament of four disin- 
terested gentlemen, declined the contract, saying 
that Mr. Shields wished his own friends to act for 


him. They then proposed that we should explain 
without any withdrawal of papers. This was 
promptly and firmly refused, and General Whiteside 
himself pronounced the papers withdrawn. They 
then produced a note requesting us to *' disavow " 
all offensive intentions in the publications, etc., etc. 
This we declined answering, and only responded to 
the above request for an explanation. 

These are the material facts in relation to the 
matter, and I think present the case in a very dif- 
ferent light from the garbled and curtailed statement 
of General Whiteside. Why he made that state- 
ment I know not, unless he wished to detract from 
the honor of Mr. Lincoln. This was ungenerous, 
more particularly as he on the ground requested us 
not to make in our explanation any quotations 
from the "Rebecca papers;" also, not to make 
public the terms of reconciliation, and to unite with 
them in defending the honorable character of the 

General Whiteside, in his publication, says: 
"The friends of both parties agreed to withdraw 
the papers (temporarily) to give the friends of Mr. 
Lincoln an opportunity to explain." This I deny. 
I say the papers were withdrawn to enable Mr. 
Shields's friends to ask an explanation; and I ap- 
peal to the documents for proof of my position. 
By looking over these documents, it will be seen 
that Mr. Shields had not before asked for an expla- 
nation, but had all the time been dictatorially insist- 
ing on a retraction. 

General Whiteside, in his communication, bring? 
to light much of Mr. Shields's manifestations of 
bravery behind the scenes. I can do nothing of the 
kind for Mr. Lincoln. He took his stand when I 
first met him at Tremont, and maintained it calmly 
to the last, without difficulty or difference between 
himself and his friends. 


I cannot close this article, lengthy as it is, with- 
out testifying to the honorable and gentlemanly 
conduct of General Ewing and Dr. Hope, nor 
indeed can I say that I saw anything objectionable 
in the course of General Whiteside up to the time 
of his communication. This is so replete with pre- 
varication and misrepresentation, that I cannot 
accord to the General that candor which I once 
supposed him to possess. He complains that I did 
not procrastinate time according to agreement. He 
forgets that by his own act he cut me off from that 
chance in inducing me, by promise, not to com- 
municate our secret contract to Mr. Lincoln. More- 
over, I could see no consistency in wishing for an 
extension of time at that stage of the affair, when 
in the outset they were in so precipitate a hurry 
that they could not wait three days for Mr. Lincoln 
to return from Tremont, but must hasten there, 
apparently with the intention of bringing the matter 
to a speedy issue. He complains, too, that, after 
inviting him to take a seat in the buggy I never 
broached the subject to him on our route here. But 
was I, the defendant in the case, with a challenge 
hanging over me, to make advances, and beg a 
reconciliation ? 

Absurd! Moreover, the valorous General forgets 
that he beguiled the tedium of the journey by 
recounting to me his exploits in many a well-fought 
battle, — dangers by '' flood and field," in which I 
don't believe he ever participated, — doubtless with 
a view to produce a salutary effect on my nerves, 
and impress me with a proper notion of his fire-eat- 
ing propensities. 

One more main point of his argument and I have 
done. The General seems to be troubled with a 
convenient shortness of memory on some occasions. 
He does not remember that any explanations were 
offered at any time, unless it were a paper read when 


the " broadsword proposition " was tendered, when 
his mind was so confused by the anticipated clatter 
of broadswords, or something else, that he did '' not 
know fully what it purported to be." The truth is, 
that, bv unwisely refraining from mentioning it to 
his principal, he placed himself in a dilemma which 
he is now endeavoring to shuffle out of. By his in- 
ef^ciency and want of knowledge of those laws 
which govern gentlemen in matters of this kind, he 
has done great injustice to his principal, a gentleman 
who, I believe, is ready at all times to vindicate his 
honor manfully, but who has been unfortunate in 
the selection of his friends, and this fault he is now 
trying to wipe out by doing an act of still greater 
injustice to Mr. Lincoln. 

E. H. Merryman. 

*The following letter from Lincoln to his friend Speed furnishes 
the final outcome of the "duelling business." 

Springfield, October 5, 1S42. 

Dear Speed :— 

You have heard of mv duel with Shields, and I have now to 
inform vou that the duelling business still rages in this city. Day 
before \-esterdav Shields challenged Butler, who accepted, proposed 
fighting' next morning at sunrising in Bob Allen's meadow, one hun- 
dred yards distance, with rifles. To this \Vhiteside, Shields' s 
second, said 'no' because of the law. Thus ended duel No. 2. 
Yesterday Whiteside chose to consider himself insulted by Dr. 
Merrvman, so sent him a kind of quasi-challenge inviting him to 
meet' him at the Planter's House in St. Louis, on the next Friday, 
to settle their difficulty. Merrvman made me his friend, and sent 
\Yhiteside a note, inquiring to know if he meant his note as a chal- 
lenc^^e, and if so, that he would, according to the law in such case 
made and provided, prescribe the terms of the meeting. Whiteside 
returned for answer that if Merrvman would meet him at the 
Planter's House as desired, he would challenge him. Merryman 
replied in a note, that he denied Whiteside's right to dictate time 
and place, but that he (Merrvman) would waive the question of time, 
and meet him at Louisiana, Mo. Upon my presenting this note to 
Whiteside, and stating verbally its contents, he declined receiving it, 
saving he had business in St. Louis, and it was as near as Louisiana. 
M'erryman then directed me to notify Whiteside that he should pub- 
lish the correspondence between them, with such comments as he 
saw fit. This I did. Thus it stood at bed-time last night. This 
morning Whiteside, by his friend Shields, is praying for a new trial, 


Dr. Merryman's elaborate and graphic account of 
the meeting at the duelling ground and all the pre- 
liminary proceedings is as full and complete a his- 
tory of this serio-comic affair as any historian could 
give. Mr. Lincoln, as mentioned in the outset of 
this chapter, in the law office and elsewhere, as a 
rule, refrained from discussing it. I only remember 
of hearing him say this, in reference to the duel : 
*' I did not intend to hurt Shields unless I did so 
clearly in self-defense. If it had been necessary I 
could have split him from the crown of his head to 
the end of his backbone ;" and when one takes into 
into consideration the conditions of weapons and 
position required in his instructions to Dr. Merry- 
man the boast does not seem impossible. 

The marriage of Lincoln in no way diminished 
his love for politics ; in fact, as we shall see later 
along, it served to stimulate his zeal in that direc- 
tion. He embraced every opportunity that offered 
for a speech in public. Early in 1842 he entered 
into the Washingtonian movement organized to sup- 
press the evils of intemperance. At the request of 
the society he delivered an admirable address, on 
Washington's birthday, in the Presbyterian Church, 
which, in keeping with former efforts, has been so 
often published that I need not quote it in full. I 
was then an ardent temperance reformer myself, and 

on the ground that he was mistaken in Merryman's proposition to 
meet him at Louisiana, Mo., thinking it was the State of Louisiana. 
This Merryman hoots at, and is preparing his pxtbli cation ; while 
the town is' in a ferment, and a street-fight somewhat anticipated. * * 

Yours forever, 



remember well how one paragraph of Lincoln's 
speech offended the church members who were 
pVesent. Speaking of certain Christians who 
objected to the association of drunkards, even v/ith 
the chance of reforming them, he said : " If they 
(the Christians) believe, as they profess, that Omnip- 
otence condescended to take on himself the form of 
sinful man, and as such die an ignominious death, 
surely they will not refuse submission to the in- 
finitely lesser condescension, for the temporal and 
perhaps eternal salvation of a large, erring, and un- 
fortunate class of their fellow-creatures. Nor is 
the condescension very great. In my judgment such 
of us as have never fallen victims have been spared 
more from the absence of appetite than from any 
mental or moral superiority over those who have. 
Indeed, I believe, if we take habitual drunkards as 
a class, their heads and their hearts will bear an 
advantageous comparison with those of any other 
class." The avowal of these sentiments proved to 
be an unfortunate thing for Lincoln. The profess- 
ing Christians regarded the suspicion suggested in 
the first sentence as a reflection on the sincerity of 
their belief, and the last one had no better effect in 
reconciling them to his views. I was at the door of 
the church as the people passed out, and heard them 
discussing the speech. Many of them were open in 
the expression of their displeasure. '' It's a shame," 
I heard one man say, *' that he should be permitted 
to abuse us so in the house of the Lord." The truth 
was the society was composed mainly of the roughs 
and drunkards of the town, who had evinced a desire 


to reform. Many of them were too fresh from the 
gutter to be taken at once into the society of such 
people as worshipped at the church where the 
speech was dehvered. Neither was there that 
concert of effort so universal to-day between the 
churches and temperance societies to rescue the 
fallen. The whole thing, I repeat, was damaging to 
Lincoln, and gave rise to the opposition on the 
part of the churches which confronted him several 
years afterwards when he became a candidate against 
the noted Peter Cartwright for Congress. The 
charge, therefore, that in matters of religion he was 
a skeptic was not without its supporters, especially 
where his opponent was himself a preacher. But, 
nothing daunted, Lincoln kept on and labored 
zealously in the interest of the temperance move- 
ment. He spoke often again in Springfield, and 
also in other places over the country, displaying 
the same courage and adherence to principle that 
characterized his every undertaking. 

Meanwhile, he had one eye open for politics as he 
moved along. He was growing more self-reliant in 
the practice of law every day, and felt amply able to 
take charge of and maintain himself in any case 
that happened to come into his hands. His pro- 
pensity for the narration of an apt story was of im- 
measurable aid to him before a jury, and in cases 
where the law seemed to lean towards the other 
side won him many a case. In 1842, Martin Van 
Buren, who had just left the Presidential chair, made 
a journey through the West. He was accompanied 
by his former Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Paulding, 



and in June they reached the village of Rochester, 
distant from Springfield six miles. It was evening 
when they arrived, and on account of the muddy 
roads they decided to go no farther, but to rest 
there for the night. Word was sent into Springfield, 
and of course the leading Democrats of the capital 
hurried out to meet the distinguished visitor. 
Knowing the accommodations at Rochester were not 
intended for or suited to the entertainment of an 
ex-President, they took with them refreshments in 
quantity and variety, to make up forall deficiencies. 
Among others, they prevailed on Lincoln, although 
an ardent and pronounced Whig, to accompany 
them. They introduced him to the venerable states- 
man of Kinderhook as a representative lawyer, and a 
man whose wit was as ready as his store of anec- 
dotes was exhaustless. How he succeeded in enter- 
taining the visitor and the company, those who 
were present have often since testified. Van Buren 
himself entertained the crowd with reminiscences of 
politics in New York, going back to the days of 
Hamilton and Burr, and many of the crowd in turn 
interested him with graphic descriptions of early 
life on the western frontier. But they all yielded 
at last to the piquancy and force of Lincoln's queer 
stories. " Of these," relates one of the company," 
'' there was a constant supply, one following another 
in rapid succession, each more irresistible than its 
predecessor. The fun continued until after midnight, 
and until the distinguished traveller insisted that 

* Jos. Gillespie, MS. letter, September 6, 1S66. 


his sides were sore from laughing." The yarns 
which Lincohi gravely spun out, Van Buren assured 
the crowd, he never would forget. 

After April 14, 1841, when Lincoln retired from 
the partnership with Stuart, who had gone to Con- 
gress, he had been associated with Stephen T. 
Logan, a man who had, as he deserved, the reputa- 
tion of being the best nisi pritis lawyer in the State. 
Judge Logan was a very orderly but somewhat 
technical lawyer. He had some fondness for poli- 
tics, and made one race for Congress, but he lacked 
the elements of a successful politician. He was de- 
feated, and returned to the law. He was assiduous 
in study and tireless in search of legal principles. 
He was industrious and very thrifty, delighted to 
make and save money, and died a rich man. Lin- 
coln had none of Logan's qualities. He was any- 
thing but studious, and had no money sense. He 
was five years younger, and yet his mind and make- 
up so impressed Logan that he was invited into the 
partnership with him. Logan's example had a good 
effect on Lincoln, and it stimulated him to unusual 
endeavors. For the first time he realized the effec- 
tiveness of order and method in work, but his old 
habits eventually overcame him. He permitted his 
partner to do all the studying in the preparation of 
cases, while he himself trusted to his general knowl- 
edge of the law and the inspiration of the surround- 
ings to overcome the judge or the jury. Logan 
was scrupulously exact, and used extraordinary care 
in the preparation of papers. His words were well 
chosen, and his style of composition was stately and 


\D rr. 

oo ^ 

^ 5 




formal. This extended even to his letters. This 
Lincoln lacked in every particular. I have before 
me a letter written by Lincoln at this time to the 
proprietors of a wholesale store in Louisville, for 
whom suit had been brought, in which, after notify- 
ing the latter of the sale of certain real estate in 
satisfaction of their judgment, he adds: '* As to 
the real estate we cannot attend to it. We are not 
real estate agents, we are lawyers. We recommend 
that you give the charge of it to Mr. Isaac S. 
Britton, a trustworthy man, and one v/hom the 
Lord made on purpose for such business." He 
gravely signs the firm name, Logan and Lincoln, to 
this unlawyerlike letter and sends it on its wa)-. 
Logan never would have written such a letter. He 
had too much gravity and austere dignity to permit 
any such looseness of expression in letters to his 
clients or to anyone else. 

In 1843, Logan and Lincoln both had their eyes 
set on the race for Congress. Logan's claim to the 
honor lay in his age and the services he had ren- 
dered the Whig party, while Lincoln, overflowing 
with ambition, lay great stress on his legislative 
achievements, and demanded it because he had 
been defeated in the nominating conventions by 
both Hardin and Baker in the order named. That 
two such aspiring politicians, each striving to obtain 
the same prize, should not dwell .harmoniously 
together in the same office is not strange. Indeed, 
we may reasonably credit the story that they con- 
sidered themselves rivals, and that numerous acri- 
monious passages took place between them. I was 


not surprised, therefore, one morning, to see Mr. 
Lincoln come rushing up into my quarters and with 
more or less agitation tell me he had determined to 
sever the partnership with Logan. I confess I was 
surprised when he invited me to become his part- 
ner. I was young in the practice and was painfully 
aware of my want of ability and experience ; but 
when he remarked in his earnest, honest way, 
** Billy, I can trust you, if you can trust me," I felt 
relieved, and accepted the generous- proposal. It 
has always been a matter of pride with me that 
during our long partnership, continuing on until it 
was dissolved by the bullet of the assassin Booth, 
we never had any personal controversy or disagree- 
ment. I never stood in his way for political honors 
or office, and I believe we understood each other 
perfectly. In after years, when he became more 
prominent, and our practice grew to respectable 
proportions, other ambitious practitioners under- 
took to supplant me in the partnership. One of 
the latter, more zealous than wise, charged that I 
was in a certain way weakening the influence of the 
firm. I am flattered to know that Lincoln turned 
on this last named individual with the retort, '' I 
know my own business, I reckon. I know Billy 
Herndon better than anybody, and even if what 
you say of him is true I intend to stick by him." 

Lincoln's effort to obtain the Congressional nom- 
ination in 1843 brought out several unique and 
amusing incidents. He and Edward D. Baker were 
the two aspirants from Sangamon county, but 
Baker's long residence, extensive acquaintance, and 


general popularity were obstacles Lincoln could not 
overcome ; accordingly, at the last moment, Lincoln 
reluctantly withdrew from the field. In a letter to 
his friend Speed, dated March 24, 1843, he describes 
the situation as follows : " We had a meeting of the 
Whigs of the county here on last Monday, to ap- 
point delegates to a district convention ; and Baker 
beat me, and got the delegation instructed to go 
for him. The meeting, in spite of my attempt to 
decline it, appointed me one of the delegates ; so 
that in getting Baker the nomination I shall be 
fixed a good deal like a fellow who is made grooms- 
man to a man that has cut him out, and is marrying 
his own dear gal." Only a few days before this he 
had written a friend anent the Congressional matter, 
" Now if you should hear any one say that Lincoln 
don't want to go to Congress, I wish you, as a per- 
sonal friend of mine, would tell him you have 
reason to believe he is mistaken. The truth is I 
would like to go very much. Still, circumstances 
may happen which may prevent my being a candi- 
date. If there are any who be my friends in such 
an enterprise, what I now want is that they shall 
not throw me away just yet."'^ To another friend 
in the adjoining county of Menard a few days after 
the meeting of the Whigs in Sangamon, he ex- 
plains how Baker defeated him. 

The entire absence of any feeling of bitterness, 
or what the politicians call revenge, is the most 
striking feature of the letter. " It is truly gratify- 

* Letter to R S. Thomas, Virginia, 111., Feb. 14, '43, MS. 

254 ^-^^ L^^^^ OF LINCOLN. 

ing," he says, ''to me to learn that while the peo- 
ple of Sangamon have cast me off, my old friends 
of Menard, who have known me longest and best, 
stick to me. It would astonish if not amuse the 
older citizens to learn that I (a strange, friendless, 
uneducated, penniless boy, working on a flat-boat at 
ten dollars per month) have been put down 
here as the candidate of pride, wealth, and aristo- 
cratic family distinction. Yet so, chiefly, it was. 
There was, too, the strangest combination of 
church influence against me. Baker is a Campbell- 
ite, and therefore as I suppose, with few excep- 
tions, got all that church. My wife has some 
relations in the Presbyterian churches and some 
with the Episcopalian churches, and therefore, 
wherever it would tell, I was set down as either the 
one or the other, while it was everywhere contended 
that no Christian ought to go for me, because I 
belonged to no church, was suspected of being a 
deist, and had talked about fighting a duel. With 
all these things Baker, of course, had nothing to 
do ; nor do I complain of them. As to his own 
church going for him I think that was right enough ; 
and as to the influences I have spoken of in the 
other, though they were very strong, it would be 
grossly untrue and unjust to charge that they acted 
upon them in a body, or were very near so. I only 
mean that those influences levied a tax of consider- 
able per cent, and throughout the religious contro- 
versy." To a proposition offering to instruct 
the Menard delegation for him he replies : " You 
say you shall instruct your delegates for me unless 


I object. I certainly shall not object. That would 
be too pleasant a compliment for me to tread in the 
dust. And besides, if anything should happen 
(which, however, is not probable) by which Baker 
should be thrown out of the fight, I would be at 
liberty to accept the nomination if I could get it. 
I do, however, feel myself bound not to hinder him 
in any way from getting the nomination. I should 
despise myself were I to attempt it." 

Baker's friends had used as an argument against 
Lincoln that he belonged to a proud and aristo- 
cratic family, referring doubtless to some of the 
distinguished relatives who were connected with 
him by marriage. The story reaching Lincoln's 
ears, he laughed heartily over it one day in a 
Springfield store and remarked : 

*' That sounds strange to me, for I do not remem- 
ber of but one who ever came to see me, and while 
he was in town he was accused of stealing a jew's- 
harp." " In the convention which was held shortly 
after at the town of Pekin neither Baker nor Lincoln 
obtained the coveted honor ; but John J. Hardin, of 
Mororan, destined to lose his life at the head of an 
Illinois recriment in the Mexican war, was nomi- 


nated, and in the following August, elected by a 
good majority. Lincoln bore his defeat manfully. 
He was no doubt greatly disappointed, but by no 
means soured. He conceived the strange notion 
that the publicity given his so-called "aristocratic 
family distinction " would cost him the friendship 
of his humbler constituents— his Clary's Grove 
* Letter, A. Y. Ellis, July 16, '66, MS. 


friends. He took his friend James Matheney out 
into the woods with him one day and, calHng up the 
bitter features of the canvass, protested '* vehemently 
and with great emphasis " that he was anything 
but aristocratic and proud. "Why, Jim," he said, 
" I am now and always shall be the same Abe 
Lincoln I was when you first saw me." 

In the campaign of 1844 Lincoln filled the hon- 
orable post of Presidential Elector, and he extended 
the limits of his acquaintance by stumping the 
State. This was the year the gallant and magnetic 
Clay went down in defeat. Lincoln, in the latter 
end of the canvass, crossed over into Indiana and 
made several speeches. He spoke at Rockport and 
also at Gentryville, where he met the Grigsbys, the 
Gentrys, and other friends of his boyhood. The 
result of the election was a severe disappointment 
to Mr. Lincoln as well as to all other Whigs. No 
election since the foundation of the Government 
created more widespread regret than the defeat of 
Clay by Polk. Men were never before so enlisted 
in any man's cause, and when the great Whig chief- 
tain went down his followers fled from the field in 
utter demoralization. Some doubted the success of 
popular government, while others, more hopeful 
still in the face of the general disaster, vowed they 
would never shave their faces or cut their hair till 
Henry Clay became President. As late as 1880 I saw 
one man who had lived up to his insane resolution. 
One political society organized to aid Clay's elec- 
tion sent the defeated candidate an address, in which 
they assured him that, after the smoke of battle 


had cleared away, he would ever be remembered 
as one '^vhose name honored defeat and gave it a 
glory which victory could not have brought." In 
Lincoln's case his disappointment was no greater 
than that of any other Whig. Many persons have 
yielded to the impression that Mr. Lincoln visited 
Clay at his home in Lexington and felt a personal 
loss in his defeat, but such is not the case. He 
took no more gloomy view of the situation than 
the rest of his party. He had been a leading figure 
himself in other campaigns, and was fully inured 
to the chilling blasts of defeat. They may have 
driven him in, but only for a short time, for he soon 
evinced a willingness to test the temper of the 
w^nds again. 

No sooner had Baker been elected to Congress in 
August, 1844, than Lincoln began to manifest a 
longing for the tempting prize to be contended for 
in 1846. Hardin and Baker both having been 
required to content themselves with a single term 
each, the struggle among Whig aspirants narrowed 
down to Logan and Lincoln.^ The latter's claim 

* The Whig candidates for Congress in the Springfield district 
"rotated" in the following order: Baker succeeded Hardin in 1844, 
Lincoln was elected in 1846, and Logan was nominated but defeated 
in 1848. Lincoln publicly declined to contest the nomination with 
Baker in 1S44 ; Hardin did the same for Lincoln in 1846— although 
both seem to have acted reluctantly ; and Lincoln refused to run 
against Logan in 1848. Many persons insist that an agreement 
among these four conspicuous Whig leaders to content themselves 
with one term each actually existed. There is, however, no proof of 
any bargain, although there seems to have been a tacit understand- 
ing of the kind— maintained probably to keep other and less tract- 
able candidates out of the field. 


seemed to find such favorable lodgment with the 
party workers, and his popularity seemed so appar- 
ent, that Logan soon realized his own want of 
strength and abandoned the field to his late law 
partner. The convention which nominated Lincoln 
met at Petersburg May i, 1846. Hardin, who, in 
violation of what was then regarded as precedent, 
had been seeking the nomination, had courteously 
withdrawn. Logan, ambitious to secure the honor 
next time for himself, with apparent generosity 
presented Lincoln's name to the convention, and 
there being no other candidate he was chosen unani- 
mously. The reader need not be told whom the 
Democrats placed in the field against him. It was 
Peter Cartwright, the famous Methodist divine and 
circuit rider. An energetic canvass of three months 
followed, during which Lincoln kept his forces well 
in hand. He was active and alert, speaking every- 
where, and abandoning his share of business in the 
law office entirely. He had a formidable competi- 
tor in Cartwright, who not only had an extensive 
following by reason of his church influence, but 
rallied many more supporters around his standard 
by his pronounced Jacksonian attitude. He had 
come into Illinois with the early immigrants from 
Kentucky and Tennessee, and had at one time or 
another preached to almost every Methodist con- 
gregation between Springfield and Cairo. He had 
extensive family connections all over the district, 
was almost twenty-five years older than Lincoln, 
and in every respect a dangerous antagonist. 
Another thing which operated much to Lincoln's 


disadvantage was the report circulated by Cart- 
wright's friends with respect to Lincoln's religious 
views. He was charged with the grave offence of 
infidelity, and sentiments which he was reported to 
have expressed with reference to the inspiration of 
the Bible were given the campaign varnish and 
passed from hand to hand. His slighting allusion 
expressed in the address at the Presbyterian Church 
before the Washington Temperance Society, Feb- 
ruary 2d, four years before, to the insincerity of the 
Christian people was not forgotten. It, too, played 
its part ; but all these opposing circumstances were 
of no avail. Cartwright was personally very popu- 
lar, but it was plain the people of the Springfield 
district wanted no preacher to represent them in 
Congress. They believed in an absolute separation 
of Church and State. The election, therefore, of 
such a man as Cartwright would not, to their way of 
thinking, tend to promote such a result. I was 
enthusiastic and. active in Lincoln's interest myself. 
The very thought of my associate's becoming a mem- 
ber of Congress was a great stimulus to my self- 
importance. Many other friends in and around 
Springfield were equally as vigilant, and, in the 
language of another, " long before the contest closed 
we snuffed approaching victory in the air." Our 
laborious efforts met with a suitable reward. Lin- 
coln was elected by a majority of 151 1 in the dis- 
trict, a larger vote than Clay's two years before, 
which was only 914. In Sangamon county his 
majority was 690, and exceeded that of any of his 
predecessors on the Whig ticket, commencing with 


Stuart in 1834 and continuing on down to the days 
of Yates in 1852. 

Before Lincoln's departure for Washington to 
enter on his duties as a member of Congress, the 
Mexican war had begun. The volunteers had gone 
forward, and at the head of the regiments from 
Illinois some of the bravest men and the best legal 
talent in Springfield had marched. Hardin, Baker, 
Bissell, and even the dramatic Shields had enlisted. 
The issues of the war and the manner of its prose- 
cution were in every man's mouth. Naturally, 
therefore, a Congressman-elect would be expected 
to publish his views and define his position early 
in the day. Although, in common with the Whig 
party, opposing the declaration of war, Lincoln, now 
that hostilities had commenced, urged a vigorous 
prosecution. He admonished us all to permit our 
Government to suffer no dishonor, and to stand by 
the flag till peace came and came honorably to 
us. He declared these sentiments in a speech at a 
public meeting in Springfield, May 29, 1847. ^^ 
the following December he took his seat in Congress. 
He was the only Whig from Illinois. His col- 
leagues in the Illinois delegation were John A. 
McClernand, O. B. Ficklin, William A. Richardson, 
Thomas J. Turner, "Robert Smith, and John *Went- 
worth. In the Senate Douglas had made his 
appearance for the first time. The Little Giant is 
always in sight ! Robert C. Winthrop, of Massa- 
chusetts, was chosen Speaker. John Quincy Adams, 
Horace Mann, Caleb Smith, Alexander H. 
Stephens, Robert Toombs, Howell Cobb, and 


Andrew Johnson were important members of the 
House. With many of these the newly elected 
member from Illinois was destined to sustain 
another and far different relation. 

On the 5th of December, the day before the 
House organized, Lincoln wrote me a letter about 
our fee in a law-suit, and reported the result of the 
Whig caucus the night before. On the 13th, he 
wrote again : '' Dear W^illiam :— Your letter, advising 
me of the receipt of our fee in the bank case, is 
just received, and I don't expect to hear another as 
good a piece of news from Springfield while I am 
away." He then directed me from the proceeds of 
this fee to pay a debt at the bank, and out of the 
balance left to settle sundry dry-goods and grocery 
bills. The modest tone of the last paragraph is 
its most striking feature. "As you are all so 
anxious for me to distinguish myself," he said, " I 
have concluded to do so before long." January 8 
he writes: "As to speech-making, by way of get- 
ting the hang of the House, I made a little speech 
two or three days ago on a post-office question of 
no general interest. I find speaking here and else- 
where about the same thing. I was about as badly 
scared, and no worse, as I am when I speak in court. 
I expect to make one within a week or two in which 
I hope to succeed well enough to wish you to see 
it." Meanwhile, in recognition of the assurances I 
had sent him from friends who desired to approve 
his course by a re-election, he says : " It is very 
pleasant to me to learn from you that there are 
some who desire that I should be re-elected. I 


most heartily thank them for the kind partiality, 
and I can say, as Mr. Clay said of the annexation of 
Texas, that, * personally^ I would not object ' to a 
re-election, although I thought at the time, and 
still think, it would be quite as well for me to 
return to the law at the end of a single term. I 
made the declaration that I would not be a candi- 
date again, more from a wish to deal fairly with 
others, to keep peace among our friends, and to 
keep the district from going to the enemy, than for 
any cause personal to myself, so that if it should 
happen that nobody else wishes to be elected I 
could not refuse the people the right of sending 
me again. But to enter myself as a competitor of 
others, or to authorize any one so to enter me, is 
what my word and honor forbid." 

His announcement of a willingness to accept a 
re-election if tendered him by the people was 
altogether unnecessary, for within a few days after 
this letter was written his constituents began to 
manifest symptoms of grave disapproval of his 
course on the Mexican war question. His position 
on this subject was evidenced by certain resolutions 
offered by him in the House three weeks before. 
These latter were called the ''Spot Resolutions," 
and they and the speech which followed on the 12th 
of January in support of them not only sealed 
Lincoln's doom as a Congressman, but in my 
opinion, lost the district to the Whigs in 1848, 
when Judge Logan had succeeded at last in obtain- 
ing the nomination. 

Although differing with the President as to the 



justice or even propriety of a war with Mexico, 
Lincoln was not unwilling to vote, and with the 
majority of his party did vote, the supplies neces- 
sary to carry it on. He did this, however, with 
great reluctance, protesting all the while that " the 
war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun 
by the President." The *' Spot Resolutions," which 
served as a text for his speech on the 12th of 
January, and which caused such unwonted annoy- 
ance in the ranks of his constituents, were a series 
following a preamble loaded with quotations from 
the President's messages. These resolutions re- 
quested the President to inform the House : " First. 
Whether the spot on which the blood of our citizens 
was shed as in his messages declared was or was not 
within the territory of Spain, at least after the treaty 
of 1819, until the Mexican revolution. Seco7id, 
Whether that spot is or is not within the territory 
which was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary 
government of Mexico. Third. Whether that spot 
is or is not within a settlement of people, which 
settlement has existed ever since long before the 
Texas revolution, and until its inhabitants fled 
before the approach of the United States army." 
There were eight of these interrogatories, but it is 
only necessary to reproduce the three which fore- 
shadow the position Lincoln was then intending to 
assume. On the 12th of January, as before stated, 
he followed them up with a carefully prepared and 
wt,'ll-arranged speech, in which he made a severe 
rraignment of President Polk and justified the per- 
linence and propriety of the inquiries he had a few 


days before addressed to him. The speech is too 
long for insertion here. It was constructed much 
after the manner of a legal argument. Reviewing 
the evidence furnished by the President in his 
various messages, he undertook to *' smoke him 
out" with this : ** Let the President answer the 
interrogatories I proposed, as before mentioned, or 
other similar ones. Let him answer fully, fairly, 
candidly. Let him answer with facts, not with 
arguments. Let him remember, he sits where 
Washington sat ; and so remembering, let him 
answer as Washington would answer. As a nation 
should not, and the Almighty will not, be evaded, 
so let him attempt no evasion, no equivocation. 
And if, so answering, he can show the soil was ours 
where the first blood of the war was shed ; that it 
was not within an inhabited country, or if within 
such ; that the inhabitants had submitted themselves 
to the civil authority of Texas or of the United 
States; and that the same is true of the site of Fort 
Brown, then I am with him for his justification. . . 
But if he cannot or will not do this — if, on any 
pretence, or no pretence, he shall refuse or omit it 
— then I shall be fully convinced of what I more 
than suspect already — that he is deeply conscious 
of being in the wrong ; that he feels the blood of 
this war, like the blood of Abel, is crying to Heaven 
against him ; that he ordered General Taylor into 
the midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement pur- 
posely to bring on a war; that, originally having 
some strong motive — which I will not now stop to 
give my opinion concerning— to involve the coun- 



tries in a war, and trusting to escape scrutiny by 
fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding bright- 
ness of miHtary glory, — that attractive rainbow that 
rises in showers of blood, that serpent's eye that 
charms to destroy, — he plunged into it, and has 
swept on and on, till disappointed in his calculation 
of the ease with which Mexico might be subdued, 
he now finds himself he knows not where. He is 
a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed 
itian. God grant that he may be able to show that 
there is not something about his conscience more 
painful than all his mental perplexity." This speech, 
however clear may have been its reasoning, however 
rich in illustration, in restrained and burning 
earnestness, yet was unsuccessful in " smoking 
out" the President. He remained within the of- 
ficial seclusion his position gave him, and declined 
to answer. In fact it is doubtless true that Lincoln 
anticipated no response, but simply took that means 
of defining clearly his own position. 

On the 19th inst., having occasion to write me with 
reference to a note with which one of our clients, 
one Louis Candler, had been "annoying" him, 
*' not the least of which annoyance," he complains, 
*' is his cursed unreadable and ungodly handwrit- 
ing," he adds a line, in which with noticeable mod- 
esty he informs me : " I have made a speech, a copy 
of which I send you by mail." He doubtless felt 
he was taking rather advanced and perhaps ques- 
tionable ground. And so he was, for very soon 
after, murmurs of dissatisfaction began to run 
through the Whig ranks. I did not, as some of 
Lincoln's biographers would have their readers be- 


lieve, Inaugurate this feeling of dissatisfaction. On 
the contrary, as the law partner of the Congress- 
man, and as his ardent admirer, I discouraged the 
defection all I could. Still, when I listened to the 
comments of his friends everywhere after the de- 
livery of his speech, I felt that he had made a mis- 
take. I therefore wrote him to that effect, at the 
same time giving him my own views, which I knew 
were in full accord with the views of his Whig con- 
stituents. My argument in substance was : That 
the President of the United States is Commander- 
in-Chief of the Army and Navy ; that as such com- 
mander it was his duty, in the absence of Congress, 
if the country was about to be invaded and armies 
were organized in Mexico for that purpose, to go 
— if necessary — into the very heart of Mexico and 
prevent the invasion. I argued further that it 
would be a crime in the Executive to let the coun- 
try be invaded in the least degree. The action of 
the President was a necessity, and under a simi- 
lar necessity years afterward Mr. Lincoln himself 
emancipated the slaves, although he had no special 
power under the Constitution to do so. In later 
days, in what is called the Hodges letter, concerning 
the freedom of the slaves, he used this language : 

"■ I felt that measures otherwise unconstitutional 
might become lawful by becoming indispensable." 

Briefly stated, that was the strain of my argument. 
My judgment was formed on the law of nations 
and of war. " If the facts were as I believed them, 
and my premises correct, then I assumed that the 
President's acts became lawful by becoming indis- 


February I he wrote me, " Dear William : You 
fear that you and I disagree about the war. I re- 
gret this, not because of any fear we shall remain 
disagreed after you have read this letter, but 
because if you misunderstand I fear other good 
friends may also." 

Speaking of his vote in favor of the amendment 
to the supply bill proposed by George Ashmun, of 
Massachusetts, he continues : 

*' That vote affirms that the war was unnecessarily 
and unconstitutionally commenced by the Presi- 
dent ; and I will stake my life that if you had been 
in my place you would have voted just as I did. 
Would you have voted what you felt and knew 
to be a lie? I know you would not. Would you 
have gone out of the House, — skulked the vote ? I 
expect not. If you had skulked one vote you 
would have had to skulk many more before the 
close of the session. Richardson's resolutions, intro- 
duced before I made any move or gave any vote 
upon the subject, make the direct question of the 
justice of the war ; so that no man can be silent if 
he would. You are compelled to speak; and your 
only alternative is to tell the truth or tell a lie. I can- 
not doubt which you would do. . . I do not mean 
this letter for the public, but for you. Before it 
reaches you you will have seen and read my pam- 
phlet speech and perhaps have been scared anew by 
it. After you get over your scare read it over again, 
sentence by sentence, and tell me honestly what you 
think of it. I condensed all I could for fear of 
being cut off by the hour rule ; and when I got 
through I had spoken but forty-five minutes. 

" Yours forever, 

"A. Lincoln." 


I digress from the Mexican war subject long 
enough to insert, because in the order of time it 
belongs here, a characteristic letter which he wrote 
me regarding a man who was destined at a later 
day to play a far different role in the national 
drama. Here it is: 

"Washington, Feb. 2, 1848. 
" Dear William : 

" I just take up my pen to say that Mr. Stephens, 
of Georgia, a little, slim, pale-faced, consumptive man, 
with a voice like Logan's, has just concluded the 
very best speech of an hour's length I ever heard. 
My old, withered, dry eyes are full of tears yet. If 
he writes it out anything like he delivered it our peo- 
ple shall see a good many copies of it. 

*' Yours truly, 

"A. Lincoln.'* 

To Wm. H. Herndon, Esq. 

February 15 he wrote me again in criticism of 
the President's invasion of foreign soil. He still be- 
lieved the Executive had exceeded the limit of his 
authority. '* The provision of the Constitution 
giving the war-making power to Congress," he 
insists, " was dictated, as I understand it, by the 
following reasons : kings had always been involving 
and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending 
generally, if not always, that the good of the peo- 
ple was the object. This, our convention under- 
stood to be the most oppressive of all kingly 
oppressions ; and they resolved to so frame the 
Constitution that no one man should hold the 
power of bringing this oppression upon us. But 


your view destroys the whole matter, and places our 
President where kings have always stood." 

In June the Whigs met in national convention at 
Philadelphia to nominate a candidate for President. 
Lincoln attended as a delegate. He advocated the 
nomination of Taylor because of his belief that he 
could be elected, and was correspondingly averse to 
Clay because of the latter's signal defeat in 1844. 
In a letter from Washington a few days after the 
convention he predicts the election of ** Old 
Rough." He says: ''In my opinion we shall have 
a most overwhelming glorious triumph. One un- 
mistakable sign is that all the odds and ends are 
with us — Barn-burners, Native Americans, Tyler- 
men, disappointed office-seeking Locofocos, and the 
Lord knows what not. . . . Taylor's nomination 
takes the Locos on the blind side. It turns the 
war thunder against them. The war is now to them 
the gallows of Haman, which they built for us and 
on which they are doomed to be hanged them- 

Meanwhile, in spite of the hopeful view Lincoln 
seemed to take of the prospect, things in his own 
district were in exceedingly bad repair. I could 
not refrain from apprising him of the extensive 
defections from the party ranks, and the injury his 
course was doing him. My object in thus writing 
to him was not to threaten him. Lincoln was not 
a man who could be successfully threatened ; one 
had to approach him from a different direction. I 
warned him of public disappointment o\-er his 
course, and I earnestly desired to prevent him from 


committing what I believed to be political suicide. 
June 22d he answered a letter I had written him on 
the 15th. He had just returned from a Whig caucus 
held in relation to the coming Presidential election. 
" The whole field of the nation was scanned ; all is 
high hope and confidence," he said, exultingly. 
" Illinois is expected to better her condition in this 
race. Under these circumstances judge how heart- 
rending it was to come to my room and find and 
read your discouraging letter of the 15th." But 
still he does not despair. " Now, as to the young 
men," he says, '' you must not wait to be brought 
forward by the older men. For instance, do you 
suppose that I should ever have got into notice if I 
had waited to be hunted up and pushed forward 
by older men? You young men get together 
and form a Rough and Ready club, and have 
regular meetings and speeches. Take in everybody 
that you can get. ... As you go along gather up 
all the shrewd, wild boys about town, whether just 
of age or a little under age. Let every one play 
the part he can play best — some speak, some sing, 
and all halloo. Your meetings will be of evenings ; 
the older men and the women will go to hear you, 
so that it will not only contribute to the election of 
' Old Zack,' but will be an interesting pastime and 
improving to the faculties of all engaged." He was 
evidently endeavoring through me to rouse up all 
the enthusiasm among the youth of Springfield pos- 
sible under the circumstances. But I was disposed 
to take a dispirited view of the situation, and there- 
fore was not easily warmed up. I felt at this time, 


Mary Todd Lincoln. 

Rev. Peter Cartvvright, 

Stephen T. Logan. 


somewhat in advance of its occurrence, the death 
throes of the Whig party. I did not conceal my 
suspicions, and one of the Springfield papers gave 
my sentiments liberal quotation in its columns. I 
felt gloomy over the prospect, and cut out these 
newspaper slips and sent them to Lincoln. Accom- 
panying these I wrote him a letter equally melan- 
choly in tone, in which among other things I 
reflected severely on the stubbornnees and bad 
judgment of the old fossils in the party, who were 
constantly holding the young men back. This 
brought from him a letter, July lo, 1 848, which is 
so clearly Lincolnian and so full of plain philosophy, 
that I copy it in full. Not the least singular of all 
is his allusion to himself as an old man, although 
he had scarcely passed his thirty-ninth year. 

*' Washington, July lo, 1848. 

" Dear William : 

'' Your letter covering the newspaper slips 
was received last night. The subject of that 
letter is exceedingly painful to me, and I can- 
not but think there is some mistake in your im- 
pression of the motives of the old men. I suppose 
I am now one of the old men ; and I declare on my 
veracity, which I think is good with you, that noth- 
ing could afford me more satisfaction than to learn 
that you and others of my young friends at home 
were doing battle in the contest and endearing 
themselves to the people and taking a stand far 
above any I have ever been able to reach in their 
admiration. I cannot conceive that other men 
feel differently. Of course I cannot demonstrate 
what I say; but I was young once, and I am sure I 
was never ungenerously thrust back. I hardly know 


what to say. The way for a young man to rise is 
to improve himself every way he can, never suspect- 
ing that anybody wishes to hinder him. Allow me 
to assure you that suspicion and jealousy never did 
help any man in any situation. There may some- 
times be ungenerous attempts to keep a young man 
down ; and they will succeed, too, if he allows his 
mind to be diverted from its true channel to brood 
over the attempted injury. Cast about and see if 
this feeling has not injured every person you have 
ever known to fall into it. 

" Now, in what I have said I am sure you will sus- 
pect nothing but sincere friendship. I would save 
you from a fatal error. You have been a laborious, 
studious young man. You are far better informed 
on almost all subjects than I ever have been. You 
cannot fail in any laudable object unless you allow 
your mind to be improperly directed. I have some 
the advantage of you in the world's experience 
merely by being older; and it is this that induces 
me to advise. 

" Your friend, as ever, 

"■ A. Lincoln." 

Before the close of the Congressional session he 
made two more speeches. One of these, which he 
hastened to send home in pamphlet form, and which 
he supposes *' nobody will read," was devoted to 
the familiar subject of internal improvements, and 
deserves only passing mention. The other, deliv- 
ered on the 27th of July, was in its way a master- 
piece ; and it is no stretch of the truth to say that 
while intended simply as a campaign document and 
devoid of any effort at classic oratory, it was, per- 
haps, one of the best speeches of the session. It is 
too extended for insertion here without abridgment ; 


but one who reads it will lay it down convinced 
that Lincoln's ascendency for a quarter of a century 
among the political spirits in Illinois was by no 
means an accident ; neither will the reader wonder 
that Douglas, with all his forensic ability, averted, as 
long as he could, a contest with a man whose plain, 
analytical reasoning was not less potent than his 
mingled drollery and caricature were effective. The 
speech in the main is an arraignment of General 
Cass, the Democratic candidate for President, who 
had already achieved great renown in the political 
world, principally on account of his career as a 
soldier in the war of 18 12, and is a triumphant vin- 
dication of his Whig opponent, General Taylor, who 
seemed to have had a less extensive knowledge of 
civil than of military affairs, and was discreetly silent 
about both. Lincoln caricatured the military pre- 
tensions of the Democratic candidate in picturesque 
style. This latter section of the speech has hereto- 
fore been omitted by most of Mr. Lincoln's biog- 
raphers because of its glaring inappropriateness as 
a Congressional effort. I have always failed to see 
wherein its comparison with scores of others deliv- 
ered in the halls of Congress since that time could 
in any way detract from the fame of Mr. Lincoln, 
and I therefore reproduce it here : 

" But the gentleman from Georgia [Mr. Iverson] 
further says, we have deserted all our principles, and 
taken shelter under General Taylor's military coat- 
tail ; and he seems to think this is exceedingly de- 
grading. Well, as his faith is, so be it unto him. 
But can he remember no other military coat-tail. 


under which a certain other party have been shelter- 
ing for near a quarter o^ a century? Has he no ac- 
quaintance with the ample military coat-tail of Gen- 
eral Jackson ? Does he not know that his own party 
have run the last five Presidential races under that 
coat-tail? and that they are now running the sixth 
under the same cover? Yes, sir, that coat-tail was 
used not only for General Jackson himself, but has 
been clung to with the grip of death by every Demo- 
cratic candidate since. You have never ventured, 
and dare not now venture from under it. Your cam- 
paign papers have constantly been ' Old Hickory's,* 
with rude likenesses of the old general upon them ; 
hickory poles and hickory brooms your never-ending 
emblems. Mr. Polk himself was ' Young Hickory,' 
* Little Hickory,' or something so ; and even now 
your campaign paper here is proclaiming that Cass 
and Butler are of the ' Hickory stripe.' No, sir, you 
dare not give it up. Like a horde of hungry ticks, 
you have stuck to the tail of the Hermitage lion to 
the end of his life ; and you are still sticking to it, 
and drawing a loathsome sustenance from it, after 
he is dead. A fellow once advertised that he had 
made a discovery by which he could make a new 
man out of an old one and have enough of the stuff 
left to make a little yellow dog. Just such a dis- 
covery has General Jackson's popularity been to 
you. You not only twice made Presidents of him 
out of it, but you have enough of the stuff left to 
make Presidents of several comparatively small men 
since; and it is your chief reliance now to make still 

'* Mr. Speaker, old horses and military coat-tails, 
or tails of any sort, are not figures of speech such 
as I would be the first to introduce into discussion 
here ; but as the gentleman from Georgia has 
thought fit to introduce them, he and you are wel- 
come to all you have made or can make by them. 


If you have any more old horses, trot them out ; 
any more tails, just cock them and come at us. I 
repeat, I would not introduce this mode of discus- 
sion here ; but I wish gentlemen on the other side 
to understand that the use of degrading figures is 
a game at which they may find themselves unable 
to take all the winnings. [A voice * No, we give it 
up.'] Aye ! you give it up, and well you may ; but 
for a very different reason from that which you 
v/ould have us understand. The point — the power 
to hurt — of all figures consists in the truthfulness 
of their application ; and, understanding this, you 
may well give it up. They are weapons which hit 
you, but miss us. 

" But in my hurry I was very near closing on this 
subject of military tails before I was done with it. 
There is one entire article of the sort I have not 
discussed yet ; I mean the military tail you Demo- 
crats are now engaged in dovetailing on to the 
great Michigander. Yes, sir, all his biographers 
(and they are legion) have him in hand, tying him 
to a military tail, like so many mischievous 
boys tying a dog to a bladder of beans. True, the 
material is very limited, but they are at it might 
and main. He invaded Canada without resistance, 
and he outvaded it without pursuit. As he did 
both under orders, I suppose there was to him 
neither credit nor discredit ; but they are made to 
constitute a large part of the tail. He was not at 
Hull's surrender, but he was close by ; he was vol- 
unteer aid to General Harrison on the day of the 
battle of the Thames; and as you said in 1840 
Harrison was picking whortleberries two miles off 
while the battle was fought, I suppose it is a just con- 
clusion with you to say Cass was aiding Harrison to 
pick whortleberries. This is about all, except the 
mooted question of the broken sword. Some au- 
thors say he broke it : some say he threw it away ; 


and some others, who ought to know, say nothin* 
about it. Perhaps it would be a fair historical com- 
promise to say if he did not break it, he did not do 
anything- else with it. 

" By the way, Mr. Speaker, did you know I am a 
military hero ? Yes, sir, in the days of the Black 
Hawk war, I fought, bled, and came away. Speak- 
ing of General Cass's career, reminds me of my own. 
I was not at Stillman's defeat, but I was about as 
near it as Cass was to Hull's surrender; and, like 
him, I saw the place very soon afterward. It is 
quite certain I did not break my sword, for I had 
none to break, but I bent my musket pretty badly 
on one occasion. If Cass broke his sword, the idea 
is, he broke it in desperation; I bent the musket by 
accident. If General Cass went in advance of me 
picking whortleberries, I guess I surpassed him in 
charges upon the wild onions. If he saw any live 
fighting Indians, it was more than I did, but I had 
a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitos ; 
and, although I never fainted from loss of blood, I 
can truly say I was often very hungry. Mr. 
Speaker, if ever I should conclude to doff whatever 
our Democratic friends may suppose there is of 
black-cockade Federalism about me, and, thereupon 
they shall take me up as their candidate for the 
Presidency, I protest that they shall not make fun 
of me as they have of General Cass by attempting 
to write me into a military hero." 

After the adjournment of Congress on the 14th 
of August, Lincoln went through New York and 
some of the New England States making a number 
of speeches for Taylor, none of which, owing to the 
limited facilities attending newspaper reporting in 
that day, have been preserved. He returned to 
Illinois before the close of the canvass and con- 


tinued his efforts on the stump till the election. 
At the second session of Congress, which began in 
December, he was less conspicuous than before. The 
few weeks spent with his constituents had perhaps 
taught him that in order to succeed as a Congress- 
man it is not always the most politic thing to tell 
the truth because it is the truth, or do right because 
it is right. With the opening of Congress, by virtue 
of the election of Taylor, the Whigs obtained the 
ascendency in the control of governmental machin- 
ery. He attended to the duties of the Congres- 
sional of^iCe diligently and with becoming modesty. 
He answered the letters of his constituents, sent 
them their public documents, and looked after 
their pension claims. His only public act of any 
moment was a bill looking to the emancipation of 
the slaves in the District of Columbia. He inter- 
ested Joshua R. Giddings and others of equally as 
pronounced anti-slavery views in the subject, but 
his bill eventually found a lodgment on '* the table," 
where it was carefully but promptly laid by a vote 
of the House. 

Meanwhile, being chargeable with the distribu- 
tion of official patronage, he began to flounder 
about in explanation of his action in a sea of seem- 
ingly endless perplexities. His recommendation 
of the appointment of T. R. King to be Regis- 
ter or Receiver of the Land Ofifice had pro- 
duced no little discord among the other aspirants 
for the place. He wrote to a friend who endorsed 
and urged the appointment, " either to admit it is 
wrong, or come forward and sustain him." He then 



transmits to this same friend a scrap of paper — pro- 
bably a few lines approving the selection of King — 
which is to be copied in the friend's own handwrit- 
ing. " Get everybody," he insists, " (not three or 
four, but three or four hundred) to sign it, and 
then send to me. Also have six, eight, or ten of 
our best known Whig friends to write me additional 
letters, stating the truth in this matter as they un- 
derstood it. Don't neglect or delay in the matter. 
I understand," he continues, '' information of an in- 
dictment having been found against him three years 
ago for gaming or keeping a gaming house has 
been sent to the Department." He then closes with 
the comforting assurance: '* I shall try to take care 
of it at the Department till your action can be had 
and forwarded on." And still people insist that 
Mr. Lincoln was such a guileless man and so free 
from the politician's sagacity ! 

In June I wrote him regarding the case of one 
Walter Davis, who was soured and disappointed 
because Lincoln had overlooked him in his recom- 
mendation for the Springfield post-office. " There 
must be some mistake," he responds on the 5th, 
" about Walter Davis saying I promised him the 
post-office. I did not so promise him. I did tell 
him that if the distribution of the offices should 
fall into my hands he should have something ; and 
if I shall be convinced he has said any more than 
this I shall be disappointed. I said this much to him 
because, as I understand, he is of good character, is 
one of the young men, is of the mechanics, is always 
faithful and never troublesome, a Whig, and is poor, 



with the support of a widow-mother thrown almost 
exclusively on him by the death of his brother. If 
these are wrong reasons then I have been wrong ; 
but I have certainly not been selfish in it, because 
in my greatest need of friends he was against me 
and for Baker." 

Judge Logan's defeat in 1848 left Lincoln still 
in a measure in charge of the patronage in his dis- 
trict. After his term in Congress expired the 
*' wriggle and struggle" for office continued; and 
he was often appealed to for his influence in obtain- 
ing, as he termed it, *' a way to live without work." 
Occasionally, when hard pressed, he retorted with 
bitter sarcasm. I append a letter written in this 
vein to a gentleman still living in central Illinois, 
who, I suppose, would prefer that his name should 
be withheld : 

''Springfield, Dec. 15, 1849. 

'' Esq. 

'' Dear Sir : 
*'0n my return from Kentucky I found your let- 
ter of the 7th of November, and have delayed 
answering it till now for the reason I now briefly 
state. From the beginning of our acquaintance I 
had felt the greatest kindness for you and had sup- 
posed it was reciprocated on your part. Last sum- 
mer, under circumstances which I mentioned to you, 
I was painfully constrained to withhold a recom- 
mendation which you desired, and shortly after- 
wards I learned, in such a way as to believe it, that 
you were indulging in open abuse of me. Of course 
my feelings were wounded. On receiving your 
last letter the question occurred whether you were 
attempting to use me at the same time you would 


injure me, or whether you might not have been 
misrepresented to me. If the former, I ought not 
to answer you ; if the latter, I ought, and so 1 have 
remained in suspense. I now enclose you the let- 
ter, which you may use if you see fit. 

'* Yours, etc. 

"A. Lincoln." 

No doubt the man, when Lincoln declined at first 
to recommend him, did resort to more or less abuse. 
That would have been natural, especially with an 
unsuccessful and disappointed ofifice-seeker. I am 
inclined to the opinion, and a careful reading of the 
letter will warrant it, that Lincoln believed him 
guilty. If the recommendation which Lincoln, after 
so much reluctance, gave was ever used to further 
the applicant's cause I do not know it. 

With the close of Lincoln's congressional career 
he drops out of sight as a political factor, and for 
the next few years we take him up in another capac- 
ity. He did not solicit or contend for a renomina- 
tion to Congress, and such was the unfortunate 
result of his position on public questions that it is 
doubtful if he could have succeeded had he done 


Immediately following the adjournment of Con- 
gress in August, 1848, Mr. Lincoln set out for Massa- 
chusetts to take part in the presidential campaign. 
Being the only Whig in the delegation in Congress 
from Illinois, he was expected to do gallant work for 
his chief, General Taylor. As this chapter in his 
career seems to have escaped the notice of former 
biographers, the writers have thought best to insert 
here extracts from the various descriptions which 
they have been able to obtain of the tour and its in- 

One of the most interesting accounts is from the 
pen of Hon. Edward L. Pierce, of Milton, Mass., 
whose memory is not less tenacious than is his style 
happy and entertaining. He says: 

" It is not known at whose instance Mr. Lincoln 
made his visits to Massachusetts in 1848. The Whigs 
of the State were hard pressed at the time by a for- 
midable secession growing out of General Taylor's 
nomination, and led by Henry Wilson, Charles Fran- 
cis Adams, Charles Allen, Charles Sumner, Stephen 
C. Phillips, John G. Palfrey, E. Rockwood Hoar, 
Richard H. Dana, Jr., Anson Burlingame, John A. 
Andrew, and other leaders who had great weight 
v/ith the people and were all effective public speak- 


ers. Generally the State had had a sufficient supply 
of orators of its own, but in that emergency some 
outside aid was sought. Gen. Leslie Coombs was in- 
vited from Kentucky, and Mr. Lincoln was induced to 
come also, on his way home from Washington at the 
end of the session. 

" The Whig State Convention met at Worcester, 
September 13th. The Free-Soil secession was great- 
er here than in any part of the State. It was led by 
Judge Charles Allen, who was elected to Congress 
from the district. There was a meeting of the Whigs 
at the City Hall on the evening before the conven- 
tion. Ensign Kellogg presided and except his intro- 
ductory remarks, Mr. Lincoln's speech, which lasted 
one and a half or two hours, was the only one. The 
Boston Advertiser s report was nearly a column in 
length. It said: 'Mr. Lincoln has a very tall and 
thin figure, with an intellectual face, showing a search- 
ing mind and a cool judgment. He spoke in a clear 
and cool and very eloquent manner, carrying the 
audience with him in his able arguments and brilliant 
illustrations, only interrupted by warm and frequent 
applause. He began by expressing a real feeling of 
modesty in addressing an audience '' this side of the 
mountains," a part of the country where, in the opin- 
ion of the people of his section, everybody was sup- 
posed to be instructed and wise. But he had devoted 
his attention to the question of the coming presiden- 
tial election, and was not unwilling to exchange with 
all whom he might meet the ideas to which he had 
arrived.' This passage gives some reason to suppose 
that, conscious of his powers, he was disposed to try 



them before audiences somewhat different from those 
to which he had been accustomed, and therefore he 
had come to New England. The first part of his 
speech was a reply, at some length, to the charge that 
General Taylor had no political principles ; and he 
maintained that the General stood on the true Whig 
principle, that the will of the people should prevail 
against executive influence or the veto power of the 
President. He justified the Whigs for omitting to put 
a national platform before the people, and, according 
to a Free-Soil report, said that a pohtical platform 
should be frowned down whenever and wherever pre- 
sented. But the stress of his speech was against the 
Free-Soilers, whose position as to the exclusion of 
slavery from the territories, he claimed, to be that of 
the Whigs ; while the former were subject to the 
further criticism that they had but one principle, re- 
minding him of the Yankee peddler, who, in offering 
for sale a pair of pantaloons, described them as ' large 
enough for any man, and small enough for any boy.' 
He condemned the Free-Soilers as helping to elect 
Cass, who was less likely to promote freedom in the 
territories than Taylor and passed judgment on them 
as having less principle than any party. To their de- 
fence of their right and duty to act independently, 
' leaving consequences to God,' he replied, that ' when 
divine or human law does not clearly point out what 
is our duty, it must be found out by an intelligent 
judgment, which takes in the results of action.' The 
Free-Soilers were much offended by a passage which 
does not appear in the Whig report. Referring to 
the anti-slavery men, he said they were better treated 

284 '^^^ ^^^^ ^^ LINCOLN. 

in Massachusetts than in the West, and, turning to 
WiUiam S. Lincohi, of Worcester, who had Hved in 
IlHnois, he remarked that in that State they had re- 
cently killed one of them. This allusion to Lovejoy's 
murder at Alton, was thought by the Free-Soilers to 
be heartless, and it was noted that Mr. Lincoln did 
not repeat it in other speeches. It was probably a 
casual remark, which came into his mind at the mo- 
ment, and meant but little, if anything. Cheers were 
given at the end of the speech for the eloquent Whig 
member from Illinois. The Whig reports spoke of 
the speech as ' masterly and convincing ' and ' one of 
the best ever made in Worcester ; ' while the Free- 
Soil report describes it as ' a pretty tedious affair.' 
The next morning he spoke at an open-air meeting, 
following Benjamin F. Thomas and Ex-Governor 
Levi Lincoln, but his speech was cut short by the 
arrival by train of the delegates from Boston, who, 
with the speakers, proceeded at once to the hall. 
The convention listened to a long address to the peo- 
ple, reported by a committee, and then to a brilliant 
speech from Rufus Choate, followed by others from 
Robert C. Winthrop, the Whig Speaker of the House 
of Representatives, Charles Hudson, M. C, and Ben- 
jamin F. Thomas. Mr. Lincoln listened to these, but 
was not himself called out. 

Mr. Lincoln spoke at Washingtonian Hall, Brom- 
field street, Boston, on the 15th, his address lasting 
an hour and a half, and, according to the report, ' sel- 
dom equaled for sound reasoning, cogent argument 
and keen satire.' Three cheers were given for * the 
Lone Star of Illinois,' on account of his being the 


only Whig member from the State. He spoke at 
Lowell the i6th, and at the Lower Mills, Dorchester, 
now a part of Boston, on Monday, the i8th. At this 
last place the meeting was held in Richmond Hall, 
and the chairman was N. F. Safford, living till 1891, 
who introduced him as one of the Lincolns of Hing- 
ham, and a descendant of Gen. Benjamin Lincoln. 
Mr. Lincoln, as he began, disclaimed descent from 
the Revolutionary officer, but said, playfully, that he 
had endeavored in Illinois to introduce the principles 
of the Lincolns of Massachusetts. A few of his audi- 
ence are still living. They were struck with his height, 
as he arose in the low-studded hall. He spoke at 
Chelsea on the 19th, and a report^states that his 
speech ' for aptness of illustration, solidity of argu- 
ment, and genuine eloquence, was hard to beat.' 
Charles Sumner had defended the Free-Soil cause at 
the same place the evening before. Mr. Lincoln 
spoke at Dedham, in Temperance Hall, on the 20th, 
in the daytime. Two Whig nominating conventions 
met there the same day, at one of which Horace 
Mann was nominated for a second term in Congress. 
A report states that he ' spoke in an agreeable and 
entertaining way.' He left abruptly to take a train 
in order to meet another engagement, and was es- 
corted to the station by the Dorchester band. The 
same evening he spoke at Cambridge. The report 
describes him as ' a capital specimen of a Sucker 
Whig, six feet at least in his stockings.' Of his 
speech, it was said that ' it was plain, direct and to 
the point, powerful and convincing, and telling with 
capital effect upon the immense audience. It was a 


model speech for the campaign.' His last speech 
was on the 22d, at Tremont Temple, with George 
Lunt presiding, in company with William H. Seward, 
whom he followed, ending at 10.30 P. M. The Whig 
newspaper, the Atlas, the next morning gave more 
than a column to Mr. Seward's speech, but stated 
that it had no room for the notes which had been 
taken of Mr. Lincoln's, describing it, however, as 
* powerful and convincing, and cheered to the echo.' 
The Free-Soil paper (Henry Wilson's) refers to the 
meeting, mentioning Mr. Seward, but not Mr. Lin- 
coln. The next day Mr. Lincoln left Boston for 
Illinois. The Atlas on Monday contained this para- 
graph : ' \\\ answer to the many applications which 
we daily receive from different parts of the State for 
this gentleman to speak, we have to say that he left 
Boston on Saturday morning on his way home to 

It is evident from all the contemporaneous reports, 
that Mr. Lincoln made a marked impression on all his 
audiences. Their attention was drawn at once to his 
striking figure; they enjoyed his quaintness and 
humor ; and they recognized his logical power and 
his novel way of putting things. Still, so far as his 
points are given in the public journals, he did not 
rise at any time above partisanship, and he gave 
no sign of the great future which awaited him as a 
political antagonist, a master of language, and a leader 
of men. But it should be noted, in connection with 
this estimate, that the Whig case, as put in that 
campaign, was chiefly one of personalities, and was 
limited to the qualities and career of Taylor as a 


soldier, and to ridicule of his opponent, General Cass. 
Mr. Lincoln, like the other Whig speakers, labored 
to prove that Taylor was a Whig. 

Seward's speech at Tremont Temple, to which 
Lincoln listened, seems to have started a more seri- 
ous vein of thought on slavery in the mind of the 
future President. That evening, when they were 
together as fellow-lodgers at a hotel, Lincoln said : 
" Governor Seward, I have been thinking about what 
you said in your speech. I reckon you are right. 
We have got to deal with this slavery question, and 
got to give much more attention to it hereafter than 
we have been doing." ^ 

It is curious now to recall how little support, in 
the grave moments of his national career which came 
twelve years later, Mr. Lincoln received from the 
Whigs of Massachusetts, then conspicuous in public 
life, whom he met on his visit. Mr. Lunt, who pre- 
sided at Faneuil Hall, was to the end of his life a 
pro-slavery conservative. Judge Thomas, in Congress, 
during the early part of the civil war, was obstructive 
to the President's policy. Mr. Winthrop voted 
against Lincoln in i860 and 1864. Mr. Choate died 
in 1859, but, judged by his latest utterances, his mar- 
velous eloquence would have been no patriotic inspira- 
tion if he had outlived the national struggle. On 
the other hand, the Free-Soilers of Massachusetts, 
whom Mr. Lincoln came here to discredit, became, 
to a man, his supporters ; and on many of their leaders 
he relied as his support in the great conflict. Sumner 

* Seward's Life, vol. ii, p. 80. 

288 ^^^ ^^^^ ^^ LINCOLN. 

was chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign 
Affairs during the war ; Wilson was chairman of the 
Committee on Mihtary Affairs ; Adams was Minister 
to England ; and Andrew War-Governor of the State. 
These, as well as Palfrey, Burlingame and Dana, who, 
in 1848, almost every evening addressed audiences 
against both Taylor and Cass, while Mr. Lincoln was 
here, were earnest and steadfast in their devotion to 
the Government during the civil war ; and the last 
three received important appointments from him. 
How the press treated Mr. Lincoln may be learned 
from the following editorial in the Lowell Jottrnal 
and Courier^ in its issue of September 18, 1848: 

Whig Meeting. 

The sterling Whigs of Lowell came together last 
Saturday evening, at the City Hall. The meeting 
was called to order by the Chairman of the Whig 
Central Committee, Hon. Linus Child. Homer Bart- 
lett, Esq., was chosen chairman, and A. Gilman, secre- 
tary. After a few animating remarks from the 
Chairman, he introduced George Woodman, Esq., of 
Boston, who made a very pertinent and witty off- 
hand speech, which was frequently interrupted by the 
spontaneous plaudits of the audience. At the close 
of his speech Mr. Woodman introduced the Hon. 
Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois. It would be doing 
injustice to his speech to endeavor to give a sketch 
of it. It was replete with good sense, sound reason- 
ing, and irresistible argument, and spoken with that 
perfect command of manner and matter which so 
eminently distinguishes the Western orators. He 
disabused the public of the erroneous suppositions 
that Taylor was not a Whig ; that Van Buren was 
anything more than a thorough Loco-foco on all sub- 



jects other than Free Territory, and hardly safe on 
that ; and showed up, in a masterly manner, the in- 
consistency and folly of those Whigs, who, being 
drawn off from the true and oldest free-soil organiza- 
tion known among the parties of the Union, would 
now lend their influence and votes to help Mr. Van 
Buren into the presidential chair. His speech was 
interrupted by frequent cheers of the audience. At 
the close the secretary, by request, read the letter 
of General Taylor to Captain Alison, which had just 
been received, in which he says : "' From the begin- 
ning till now, I have declared myself to be a Whig, 
on all proper occasions." 

Ex-Governor Gardner, after a brief history of the 
Whig Convention at Worcester, Mass., contributes 
this pleasing reminiscence: 

'' Gov. Levi Lincoln, the oldest living Ex-Gov- 
ernor of Massachusetts, resided in Worcester. He 
was a man of culture and wealth ; lived in one of the 
finest houses in that town, and was a fine speciraen 
of a gentleman of the old school. It was his custom 
to give a dinner party when any distinguished assem- 
blage took place in Worcester, and to invite its promi- 
nent participants. He invited to dine, on this occa- 
sion, a company of gentlemen, among them myself, 
who was a delegate from Boston. The dining-room 
and table arrangements were superb, the dinner ex- 
quisite, the wines abundant, rare, and of the first 

'' I well remember the jokes between Governor 
Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln as to their presumed 
relationship. At last the latter said : ' I Jiope we 
both belong, as the Scotch say, to the same clan ; 

2QO ^^^^ ^^^^ <^^ LINCOLN. 

but I /^;/^Xt; one thing, and that is, that we are both 
good Whigs.' 

"That evening there was held in Mechanics' Hall 
(an immense building) a mass-meeting of delegates 
and others, and Lincoln was announced to speak. No 
one there had ever heard him on the stump, and in 
fact knew anything about him. When he was an- 
nounced, his tall, angular, bent form, and his manifest 
awkwardness and low tone of voice, promised noth- 
ing interesting. But he soon warmed to his work. 
His style and manner of speaking were novelties in 
the East. He repeated anecdotes, told stories admi- 
rable in humor and in point, interspersed with bursts 
of true eloquence, which constantly brought down the 
house. His sarcasm of Cass, Van Buren and the 
Democratic party was inimitable, and whenever he 
attempted to stop, the shouts of ' Go on ! go on ! ' 
were deafening. He probably spoke over an hour, 
but so great was the enthusiasm time could not be 
measured. It was doubtless one of the best efforts 
of his life. He spoke a day or two afterward in 
Faneuil Hall, with William H. Seward, but I did 
not hear him. 

*' In 1861 business called me to Washington, and I 
paid my respects to the President at the White House. 
He came forward smiling and with extended hand, 
saying : ' You and I are no strangers ; we dined to- 
gether at Governor Lincoln's in 1848.' When one 
remem.bers the increased burden on the President's 
mind at this trying time, the anxieties of the war, the 
army, the currency, and the rehabilitating the civil 
officers of the country, it seemed astonishing to me to 



hear him continue : '■ Sit down. Yes, I had been 
chosen to Congress then from the wild West, and 
with hayseed in my hair I went to Massachusetts, 
the most cultured State in the Union, to take a few 
lessons in deportment. That was a grand dinner — a 
superb dinner ; by far the finest I ever saw in my life. 
And the great men who were there, too ! Why, I can 
tell you just how they were arranged at table.' He 
began at one end, and mentioned the names in order, 
and, I verily believe, without the omission of a sin- 
gle one." 

This chapter would be incomplete without the 
account of Mr. George H. Monroe, a young man liv- 
ing in Dedham, Mass., in 1848, who, forty years later, 
wrote out his recollections of Mr. Lincoln's visit to 
that town. Mr. Monroe has a vivid and retentive 
memory, and has since been identified with the pub- 
lic life and journalism of Massachusetts : '' Massachu- 
setts, on account of the great defection of Whigs to 
the Free-Soilers, and Daniel Webster's sudden and 
damaging attitude toward General Taylor's nomina- 
tion to the presidency, began to be considered rather 
doubtful ground for the Whigs. The national com- 
mittee sent Mr. Lincoln to the State, after Congress 
had adjourned, to make some speeches. Our peo- 
ple knew very little about him then. I lived in 
Dedham, the shire town of Norfolk county, and was 
secretary of a Whig club there. One of the county 
courts was in session, and it was determined to have 
a meeting in the daytime, before it adjourned. I was 
commissioned to go to Boston to engage the speaker. 
I went at once to see my friend, Colonel Schouler, of 



the Boston Atlas. He told me that a new man had 
just come into the State from Washington, who, he 
thought, would answer our purpose exactly, and said 
he would get him for me if possible. That man was 
Abraham Lincoln. When the day for the meeting 
came I went to the Tremont House and found Mr. 
Lincoln there. I remember well how tall, awkward 
and ungainly he was in appearance. I remember 
how reticent he was, too, but I attributed this to 
my own youth, for I was only just past twenty-one 
years of age. He was as sober a man in point of 
expression as ever I saw. There were others in the 
party later, but in the journey out in the cars he 
scarcely said a word to one of us. I did not see 
him smile on any part of the journey. He seemed 
uneasy and out of sympathy with his surroundings, 
as it were. I should say that the atmosphere of 
Boston was not congenial to him. We took him to 
one of the most elegant houses in the town of Ded- 
ham, and here he seemed still less, if possible, at 
home. The thing began to look rather blue for us. 
When we went over to the hall it was not much better. 
It was a small hall, and it was only about half full ; 
for Mr. Lincoln had not spoken in Boston yet, and 
there was nothing in his name particularly to attract. 
But at last he arose to speak, and almost instantly 
there was a change. His indifferent manner vanished 
as soon as he opened his mouth. He went right to 
his work. He wore a black alpaca sack, and he 
turned up the sleeves of this, and then the cuffs of 
his shirt. Next he loosened his necktie, and soon 
after he took it off altogether. All the time he was 


gaining upon his audience. He soon had it as by a 
spell. I never saw men more delighted. His style 
was the most familiar and off-hand possible. His eye 
had lighted up and changed the whole expression of 
his countenance. He began to bubble out with humor. 
But the chief charm of the address lay in the homely 
way he made his points. There was no attempt at 
eloquence or finish of style. But, for plain pungency 
of humor, it would have been difficult to surpass his 
speech. In this making of points which come home 
to the general mind, I don't think Lincoln was ever 
surpassed by any American orator. I often thought 
of it afterward, when he was exhibiting this faculty in 
a more ambitious way on a broader field. The speech 
which I am trying to describe was not a long one. 
It abruptly ended in a half-hour's time. The bell that 
called to the steam cars sounded. Mr. Lincoln in- 
stantly stopped. ' I am engaged to speak at Cam- 
bridge to-night,' said he, ' and I must leave.' The 
whole audience seemed to rise in protest. ' Oh, no ! 
go on ! finish it ! ' was heard on every hand. One gen- 
tleman arose and pledged himself to take his horse 
and carry him across the country. But Mr. Lincoln 
was inexorable. ' I can't take any risks,' said he. 
^ I have engaged to go to Cambridge, and I must be 
there. I came here as I agreed, and I am going there 
in the same way.' A more disappointed audience 
was never seen ; but Mr. Lincoln had fairly wakened 
it up, and it stayed through the afternoon and into 
the evening to listen to other speakers. We tried to 
get him to come again, but it was impossible. I 
heard the speech finished afterward in Tremont 



Temple, Boston ; and it is a notable fact that on the 
same evening, and from the same platform, William H. 
Seward also spoke, and made the only political speech 
he ever delivered in Boston. Who could have dreamed 
then that in Lincoln we were listening to the man who 
was to be the future president of the United States, 
and to leave a reputation second only to that of 
Washington ! Mr. Lincoln moved his Boston audi- 
ence in much the same way I have described, but 
Mr. Seward made the first speech, and was looked 
upon as the chief star, of course. Seward's speech 
was much more ambitious and comprehensive than 
that of Lincoln. The latter had not begun to treat 
broad principles in the 1848 campaign. Mr. Seward's 
argument was a triumph of intellect, after the most 
careful preparation. I don't think Mr. Lincoln had 
ever written his speech at all. He aimed at not 
much more than to be bright, effective and taking 
v;ith his audience, and his success was perfect here." 







After the wedding of Lincoln and Miss Todd at 
the Edwards mansion we hear but httle of them as 
a married couple till the spring of 1843, when the 
husband writes to his friend Speed, who had been 
joined to his '' black-eyed Fanny " a little over a year, 
with regard to his life as a married man. " Are you 
possessing houses and lands," he writes, '' and oxen 
and asses and men-servants and maid-servants, and 
begetting sons and daughters ? We are not keep- 
ing house, but boarding at the Globe Tavern, which 
is very well kept now by a widow lady of the name 
of Beck. Our room (the same Dr. Wallace occupied 
there) and boarding only costs us four dollars a 
week." Gaining a livelihood was slow and discour- 
aging business with him, for we find him in another 
letter apologizing for his failure to visit Kentucky, 
'' because," he says, '' I am so poor and make so lit- 
tle headway in the world that I drop back in a 
month of idleness as much as I gain in a year's sow- 
ing." But by dint of untiring efforts and the recog- 
nition of influential friends he managed through 
rare frugality to move along. In his struggles, both 
in the law and for political advancement, his wife 
shared in his sacrifices. She was a plucky little 
woman, and in fact endowed with a more restless 



ambition than he. She was gifted with a rare 
insight into the motives that actuate mankind, and 
there is no doubt that much of Lincoln's success 
was in a measure attributable to her acuteness and 
the stimulus of her influence. His election to Con- 
gress within four years after their marriage afforded 
her extreme gratification. She loved power and 
prominence, and when occasionally she came down 
to our office, it seemed to me then that she was 
inordinately proud of her tall and ungainly husband. 
She saw in him bright prospects ahead, and his every 
move was watched by her with the closest interest. 
If to other persons he seemed homely, to her he 
was the embodiment of noble manhood, and each 
succeeding day impressed upon her the wisdom of 
her choice of Lincoln over Douglas — if in reality 
she ever seriously accepted the latter's attentions. 
** Mr. Lincoln may not be as handsome a figure," 
she said one day in the office during her husband's 
absence, when the conversation turned on Douglas, 
" but the people are perhaps not aware that his 
heart is as large as his arms are long." 

Mrs. Lincoln accompanied her husband to Wash- 
ington and remained during one session of Congress. 
While there they boarded at the same house with 
Joshua R. Giddings, and when in 1856 the valiant 
old Abolitionist came to take part in the canvass 
in Illinois, he early sought out Lincoln, with whom 
he had been so favorably impressed several years 
before. On his way home from Congress Lincoln 
came by way of Niagara Falls and down Lake Erie 
to Toledo or Detroit. It happened that, some time 


after, I went to New York and also returned by way 
of Niagara Falls. In the office, a few days after my 
return, I was endeavoring to entertain my partner 
with an account of my trip, and among other things 
described the P'alls. In the attempt I indulged in 
a good deal of imagery. As I warmed up with the 
subject my descriptive powers expanded accord- 
ingly. The mad rush of water, the roar, the rapids, 
and the rainbow furnished me with an abundance 
of material for a stirring and impressive picture. 
The recollection of the gigantic and awe-inspiring 
scene stimulated my exuberant powers to the high- 
est pitch. After well-nigh exhausting myself in the 
effort I turned to Lincoln for his opinion. " What," 
I inquired, "made the deepest impression on you 
when you stood in the presence of the great natural 
wonder ? " I shall never forget his answer, because 
it in a very characteristic way illustrates how he 
looked at everything. " The thing that struck me 
most forcibly when I saw the Falls," he responded, 
" was, where in the world did all that water come 
from?" He had no eye for the magnificence and 
grandeur of the scene, for the rapids, the mist, the 
angry waters, and the roar of the whirlpool, but his 
mind, working in its accustomed channel, heedless 
of beauty or awe, followed irresistibly back to the 
first cause. It was in this light he viewed every 
question. However great the verbal foliage that 
concealed the nakedness of a good idea Lincoln 
stripped it all down till he could see clear the way 
between cause and effect. If there was any secret 
in his power this surely was it. 


After seeing Niagara Falls he continued his jour- 
ney homeward. At some point on the way, the 
vessel on which he had taken passage stranded 
on a sand bar. The captain ordered the hands to 
collect all the loose planks, empty barrels and boxes 
and force them under the sides of the boat. These 
empty casks were used to buoy it up. After for- 
cing enough of them under the vessel she lifted 
gradually and at last swung clear of the opposing 
sand bar. Lincoln had watched this operation very 
intently. It no doubt carried him back to the 
days of his navigation on the turbulent Sangamon, 
when he and John Hanks had rendered similar ser- 
vice at New Salem dam to their employer, the 
volatile Offut. Continual thinking on the subject 
of lifting vessels over sand bars and other obstruc- 
tions in the water suggested to him the idea of 
inventing an apparatus for that purpose. Using 
the principle involved in the operation he had just 
witnessed, his plan was to attach a kind of bellows 
on each side of the hull of the craft just below the 
water line, and, by an odd system of ropes and pul- 
leys, whenever the keel grated on the sand these 
bellows were to be filled with air, and thus buoyed 
up, the vessel was expected to float clear of the 
shoal. On reaching home he at once set to work 
to demonstrate the feasibility of his plan. Walter 
Davis, a mechanic having a shop near our of^ce, 
granted him the use of his tools, and likewise assisted 
him in making the model of a miniature vessel with 
the arrangement as above described. Lincoln man- 
ifested ardent interest in it. Occasionallv he would 


bring the model in the office, and while whittling on 
it would descant on its nnerits and the revolution 
it was destined to work in steamboat navigation. 
Although I regarded the thing as impracticable I 
said nothing, probably out of respect for Lincoln's 
well-known reputation as a boatman. The model 
was sent or taken by him to Washington, where a 
patent was issued, but the invention was never 
applied to any vessel, so far as I ever learned, and 
the threatened revolution in steamboat architecture 
and navigation never came to pass. The model 
still reposes in undisturbed slumber on the shelves 
in the Patent Office, and is the only evidence now 
existing of Lincoln's success as an inventor."^ 

Shortly before the close of his term in Congress 
he appears in a new role. Having failed of a re- 
election he became an applicant for the office of 
Commissioner of the General Land Office. He had 
been urged to this step by many of his Whig friends 
in Illinois, but he was so hedged about with other 

* Following is a copy of Lincoln's application for the patent on 
his " Improved Method of Lifting Vessels Over Shoals " : " What I 
claim as my invention, and desire to secure by letters patent, is the 
combination of expansible buoyant chambers placed at the sides of 
a vessel with the main shaft or shafts by means of the sliding spars, 
which pass down through the buoyant chambers and are made fast to 
their bottoms and the series of ropes and pulleys or their equiva- 
lents in such a manner that by turning the main shaft or shafts in 
one direction the buoyant chambers will be forced downwards into 
the water, and at the same time expanded and filled with air for 
buoying up the vessel by the displacement of water, and by turning 
the shafts in an opposite direction the buoyant chambers will be con- 
tracted into a small space and secured against injury. 

•'A. Lincoln." 


aspirants from his own State that he soon lost all 
heart in the contest. He was too scrupulous, and 
lacked too much the essentials of self-confidence and 
persistence, to be a successful suitor for office. In a 
letter to Joshua Speed, who had written him of a 
favorable reference to him by Mr. Crittenden, of 
Kentucky,* he says, February 20, 1849, '* I ^^ 
flattered to learn that Mr. Crittenden has any recol- 
lection of me which is not unfavorable ; and for the 
manifestation of your kindness towards me I sin- 
cerely thank you. Still, there is nothing about me 
to authorize me to think of a first-class office, and a 
second-class one would not compensate me for being 
sneered at by others who want it for themselves. I 
believe that, so far as the Whigs in Congress are 
concerned, I could have the General Land Office 
almost by common consent ; but then Sweet and 
Dav. Morrison and Browning and Cyrus Edwards 
all want it, and what is worse, while I think .1 could 
easily take it myself I fear I shall have trouble to 
get it for any other man in Illinois. The reason is 
that McGaughey, an Indiana ex-member of Congress, 
is here after it, and being personally known he will 
be hard to beat by any one who is not." But, as 
the sequel proved, there was no need to fear the 

* Lincoln had asked Speed to see Crittenden (then Governor of 
Kentucky) and secure from the latter a recommendation for Baker, 
who wanted a first-class foreign mission. Crittenden did not 
approve of Baker, but suggested that he would favor Lincoln, whom 
he regarded as a rising man. Speed suggested to Lincoln to apply 
for the place himself. "I have pledged myself to Baker," he 
answered, " and cannot under any circumstances consent to the use 
of my name so long as he is urged for the same place." 


Hoosier statesman, for although he had the endorse- 
ment of General Scott and others of equal influence, 
yet he was left far behind in the race, and along 
with him Lincoln, Morrison, Browning, and Edwards. 
A dark horse in the person of Justin Butterfield, 
sprang into view, and with surprising facility cap- 
tured the tempting prize. This latter and successful 
aspirant was a lawyer of rather extensive practice 
and reputation in Chicago. He was shrewd, adroit, 
and gifted with a knowledge of what politicians 
would call good management — a quality or charac- 
teristic in which Lincoln was strikingly deficient. 
He had endorsed the Mexican war, but, strangely 
enough, had lost none of his prestige with the 
Whigs on that account.^ 

The close of Congress and the inauguration of 
Taylor were the signal for Lincoln's departure from 
Washington. He left with the comforting assur- 

* The following letter by Butterfield' s daughter is not without 
interest : 

« Chicago, Oct. 12th, 1888. 
" Mr. Jesse W. Weik. 
"Dear Sir: 
" My father was born in Keene, N. H., in 1790, entered Williams 
College, 1807, and removed to Chicago in 1835. After the re-acces- 
sion of the Whigs to power he was on the 21st of Jime in 1849 ^P' 
pointed Commissioner of the Land Office by President Taylor. A 
competitor for the position at that time was Abraham Lincoln, who 
was beaten, it was said, by ' the superior dispatch of Butterfield in 
reaching Washington by the Northern route,' but more correctly by 
the paramount influence of his friend Daniel Webster. 

"lie held the position of Land Commissioner until disabled by 
paralysis in 1852. After lingering for three years in a disabled and 
enfeebled condition, he died at his home in Chicago, October 23d, 
1855, in his sixty- third year. 

** Very respectfully, 

" Elizabet?! Sawyer." 


ance that as an office-seeker he was by no means a 
success. Besides his lack of persistence, he had an 
unconscious feeling of superiority and pride that 
admitted of no such flexibiUty of opinion as the 
professional suitor for office must have, in order to 
succeed. He remained but a few days at his home 
in Illinois, however, before, he again set out for 
Washington, The administration of President 
Taylor feeling that some reward was due Lincoln 
for his heroic efforts on the stump and elsewhere 
in behalf of the Whig party and its measures, had 
offei;ed him the office of either Governor or Secre- 
tary of Oregon, and with the view of considering 
this and other offers he returned to Washington. 
Lincoln used to relate of this last-named journey 
an amusing incident illustrating Kentucky hospi- 
tality. He set out from Ransdell's tavern in 
Springfield, early in the morning. The only other 
passenger in the stage for a good portion of the 
distance was a Kentuckian, on his way home from 
Missouri. The latter, painfully impressed no doubt 
with Lincoln's gravity and melancholy, undertook 
to relieve the general monotony of the ride by 
offering him a chew of tobacco. With a plain '-' No, 
sir, thank you ; I never chew," Lincoln declined, 
and a long period of silence followed. Later in 
the day the stranger, pulling from his pocket a 
leather-covered case, offered Lincoln a cigar, which 
he also politely declined on the ground that he 
never smoked. Finally, as they neared the station 
where horses were to be changed, the Kentuckian, 
pouring out a cup of brandy from a flask which had 



lain concealed in his satchel, offered it to Lincoln 
with the remark, '* Well, stranger, seeing you don't 
smoke or chew, perhaps you'll take a little of this 
PVench brandy. It's a prime article and a good 
appetizer besides." His tall and uncommunicative 
companion declined this last and best evidence of 
Kentucky hospitality on the same ground as the 
tobacco. When they separated that afternoon, the 
Kentuckian, transferring to another stage, bound for 
Louisville, shook Lincoln warmly by the hand. 
*' See here, stranger," he said, good-humoredly, 
'' you're a clever, but strange companion. I may 
never see you again, and I don't want to offend 
you, but I want to say this : my experience has 

taught me that a man who has no vices has d d 

few virtues. Good-day." Lincoln enjoyed this 
reminiscence of the journey, and took great pleas- 
ure in relating it. During this same journey oc- 
curred an incident for which Thomas H. Nelson, of 
Terre Haute, Indiana, who was appointed Minister 
to Chili by Lincoln, when he was President, is 
authority. "In the spring of 1849," relates Nel- 
son, ''Judge Abram Hammond, who was after- 
wards Governor of Indiana, and I arranged to go 
from Terre Haute to Indianapolis in the stage 
coach. An entire day was usually consumed in the 
journey. By daybreak the stage had arrived from 
the West, and as we stepped in we discovered that 
the entire back seat was occupied by a long, lank 
individual, whose head seemed to protrude from 
one end of the coach and his feet from the other. 
He was the sole occupant, and was sleeping 


soundly. Hammond slapped him familiarly on the 
shoulder, and asked him if he had chartered the 
stage for the day. The stranger, now wide awake, 
responded, * Certainly not,' and at once took the 
front seat, politely surrendering to us the place of 
honor and comfort. We took in our travelling 
companion at a glance. A queer, odd-looking fel- 
low he was, dressed in a well-worn and ill-fitting 
suit of bombazine, without vest or cravat, and a 
twenty-five-cent palm hat on the back of his head. 
His very prominent features \\\ repose seemed dull 
and expressionless. Regarding him as a good sub- 
ject for merriment we perpetrated several jokes. 
He took them all with the utmost innocence and 
good-nature, and joined in the laugh, although at 
his own expense. At noon we stopped at a way- 
side hostelry for dinner. We invited him to eat 
with us, and he approached the table as if he con- 
sidered it a great honor. He sat with about half 
his person on a small chair, and held his hat under 
his arm during the meal. Resuming our journey 
after dinner, conversation drifted into a discussion 
of the comet, a subject that was then agitating 
the scientific world, in which the stranger took 
the deepest interest. He made many startling 
suggestions and asked many questions. We 
amazed him with words of learned length and 
thundering sound. After an astounding display of 
wordy pyrotechnics the dazed and bewildered 
stranger asked : * What is going to be the up- 
shot of this comet business ? * I replied that I 
was not certain, in fact I differed from most scien- 



tists and philosophers, and was incHned to the 
opinion that the world would follow the darned 
thing off ! Late in the evening we reached Indian- 
apolis, and hurried to Browning' s hotel, losing 
sight of the stranger altogether. We retired to 
our room to brush and wash away the dust of the 
journey. In a few minutes I descended to the 
portico, and there descried our long, gloomy fellow- 
traveller in the center of an admiring group of 
lawyers, among whom were Judges McLean and 
Huntington, Edward Hannigan, Albert S. White, 
and Richard W. Thompson, who seemed to be 
amused and interested in a story he was telling. 
I enquired of Browning, the landlord, who he was. 
" Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois, a member of Con- 
gress," was the response. I was thunderstruck at 
the announcement. I hastened upstairs and told 
Hammond the startling news, and together we 
emerged from the hotel by a back door and went 
down an alley to another house, thus avoiding fur- 
ther contact with our now distinguished fellow- 
traveller. Curiously enough, years after this, Ham- 
mond had vacated the office of Governor of Indi- 
ana a few days before Lincoln arrived in Indianap- 
olis, on his way to Washington to be inaugurated 
President. I had many opportunities after the 
stage ride to cultivate Mr. Lincoln's acquaintance, 
and was a zealous advocate of his nomination and 
election to the Presidency. Before leaving his 
home for Washington, Mr. Lincoln caused John P. 
Usher and myself to be invited to accompany him. 
We agreed to join him in Indianapolis. On reach- 


ing that city the Presidential party had already 
arrived, and upon inquiry we were informed that 
the President-elect was in the dining-room of the 
hotel, at supper. Passing through, we saw that 
every seat at the numerous tables was occupied, 
but failed to find Mr. Lincoln. As we were near- 
ing the door to the office of the hotel, a long arm 
reached to my shoulder and a shrill voice ex- 
claimed, ' Hello, Nelson ! do you think, after all, 
the world is going to follow the darned thing off ? ' 
It was Mr. Lincoln." 

The benefits and advantages of the territorial 
posts offered by President Taylor to Lincoln were 
freely discussed by the latter's friends. Some urged 
his acceptance on the usual ground that when Ore- 
gon was admitted as a State, he might be its first 
Senator. Lincoln himself had some inclination to 
accept. He told me himself that he felt by his 
course in Congress he had committed political sui- 
cide, and wanted to try a change of locality — hence 
the temptation to go to Oregon. But when he 
brought the proposition home to his fireside, his 
wife put her foot squarely down on it with a firm 
and emphatic No. That always ended it with 
Lincoln. The result of the whole thing proved 
a fortunate deliverance for him, the propriety of 
which became more apparent as the years rolled 

* About this time Grant Goodrich, a lawyer in Chicago, proposed 
to take Lincoln into partnership with him. Goodrich had an exten- 
sive and paying practice there, but Lincoln refused the offer, giving 
as a reason that he tended to consumption, and. if he removed to a 


While a member of Congress and otherwise 
immersed in politics Lincoln seemed to lose all 
interest in the law. Of course, what practice he 
himself controlled passed into other hands. I 
retained all the business I could, and worked stead- 
ily on until, when he returned, our practice was as 
extensive as that of any other firm at the bar. 
Lincoln realized that much of this was due to my 
efforts, and on his return he therefore suggested 
that he had no right to share in the business and 
profits which I had made. I responded that, as he 
had aided me and given me prominence when I was 
young and needed it, I could afford now to be 
grateful if not generous. I therefore recommended 
a continuation of the partnership, and we went on 
as before. I could notice a difference in Lincoln's 
movement as a lawyer from this time forward. He 
had begun to realize a certain lack of discipline— a 
want of mental training and method. Ten years had 
wrought some change in the law, and more in the 
lawyers, of Illinois. The conviction had settled in 
the minds of the people that the pyrotechnics of 
court room and stump oratory did not necessarily 
imply extensive or profound ability in the lawyer 
w^ho resorted to it. The courts were becoming 
graver and more learned, and the lawyer was learn- 
ing as a preliminary and indispensable condition to 

city like Chicago, he would have to sit down and study harder than 
ever. The close application required of him and the confinement 
in the office, he contended, would soon kill him. He preferred going 
around on the circuit, and even if he earned smaller fees he felt 
much happier. 


success that he must be a close reasoner, besides 
having at command a broad knowledge of the 
principles on which the statutory law is con- 
structed. There was of course the same riding on 
circuit as before, but the courts had improved in 
tone and morals, and there was less laxity — at least 
it appeared so to Lincoln. Political defeat had 
wrought a marked effect on him. It went below 
the skin and made a changed man of him. He was 
not soured at his seeming political decline, but 
still he determined to eschew politics from that 
time forward and devote himself entirely to the 
law. And now he began to make up for time lost 
in politics by studying the law in earnest. No 
man had greater power of application than he. 
Once fixing his mind on any subject, nothing could 
interfere with or disturb him. Frequently I would 
go out on the circuit with him. We, usually, at 
the little country inns occupied the same bed. In 
most cases the beds were too short for him, and his 
feet would hang over the foot-board, thus expos- 
ing a limited expanse of shin bone. Placing a 
candle on a chair at the head of the bed, he would 
read and study for hours. I have known him to 
study in this position till two o'clock in the morn- 
ing. Meanwhile, I and others who chanced to 
occupy the same room would be safely and soundly 
asleep. On the circuit in this way he studied 
Euclid until he could with ease demonstrate all the 
propositions in the six books. How he could main- 
tain his mental equilibrium or concentrate his 
thoughts on an abstract mathematical proposition, 


while Davis, Logan, Swett, Edwards, and I so in- 
dustriously and volubly filled the air with our 
interminable snoring was a problem none of us 
could ever solve. I was on the circuit with Lin- 
coln probably one-fourth of the time. The remain- 
der of my time was spent in Springfield looking 
after the business there, but I know that life on the 
circuit was a gay one. It was rich with incidents, 
and afforded the nomadic lawyers ample relaxation 
from* all the irksome toil that fell to their lot. 
Lincoln loved it. I suppose it would be a fair 
estimate to state that he spent over half the year 
following Judges Treat and Davis around on the 
circuit. On Saturdays the court and attorneys, if 
within a reasonable distance, would usually start 
for their homes. Some went for a fresh supply of 
clothing, but the greater number went simply to 
spend a day of rest with their families. The only 
exception was Lincoln, who usually spent his Sun- 
days with the loungers at the country tavern, and 
only went home at the end of the circuit or term of 
court. ''At first," ^ relates one of his colleagues 
on the circuit, ''we wondered at it, but soon learned 
to account for his strange disinclination to go 
home. Lincoln himself never had much to say 
about home, and we never felt free to comment on 
it. Most of us had pleasant, inviting homes, and as 
we struck out for them Lm sure each one of us down 
in our hearts had a mingled feeling of pity and sym- 
pathy for him." If the day was long and he was 

* David Davis, MS. 


oppressed, the feeling was soon relieved by the nar- 
ration of a story. The tavern loungers enjoyed it, 
and his melancholy, taking to itself wings, seemed 
to fly away. In the role of a story-teller I am 
prone to regard Mr. Lincoln as without an equal. 
I have seen him surrounded by a crowd numbering 
as many as two and in some cases three hundred 
persons, all deeply interested in the outcome of a 
story which, when he had finished it, speedily 
found repetition in every grocery and lounging 
place within reach. His power of mimicry, as I 
have before noted, and his manner of recital, were 
in many respects unique, if not remarkable. His 
countenance and all his features seemed to take 
part in the performance. As he neared the pith or 
point of the joke or story every vestige of serious- 
ness disappeared from his face. His little gray 
eyes sparkled ; a smile seemed to gather up, cur- 
tain like, the corners of his mouth ; his frame quiv- 
ered with suppressed excitement ; and when the 
point — or '* nub " of the story, as he called it — came, 
no one's laugh was heartier than his. These back- 
woods allegories are out of date now, and any 
lawyer, ambitious to gain prominence, would hardly 
dare thus to entertain a crowd, except at the risk 
of his reputation ; but with Lincoln it gave him, in 
some mysterious way, a singularly firm hold on the 

Lincoln was particularly strong in Menard county, 
and while on the circuit there he met with William 
Engle and James Murray, two men who were 
noted also for their story-telling proclivities. I 


am not now asserting for the country and the 
period what would at a later day be considered a 
very high standard of taste. Art had not such 
patrons as to-day, but the people loved the beau- 
tiful as Nature furnished it, and the good as they 
found it, with as much devotion as the more 
refined classes now are joined to their idols. News- 
papers were scarce, and the court-house, with its 
cluster of itinerant lawyers, disseminated much of 
the information that was afterwards broken up into 
smaller bits at the pioneer's fireside. A curious 
civilization indeed, but one through which every 
Western State distant from the great arterial river 
or seaboard has had to pass. 

When Lincoln, Murray, and Engle met, there was 
sure to be a crowd. All were more or less masters 
in their art. I have seen the little country tavern 
where these three were wont to meet after an adjourn- 
ment of court, crowded almost to suffocation with an 
audience of men who had gathered to witness the 
contest among the members of the strange trium- 
virate. The physician of the town, all the lawyers, 
and not unfrequently a preacher could be found in 
the crowd that filled the doors and windows. The 
yarns they spun and the stories they told would not 
bear repetition here, but many of themiiad morals 
which, while exposing the weaknesses of mankind, 
stung like a whip-lash. Some were no doubt a thou- 
sand years old, with just enough '' verbal varnish " 
and alterations of names and dates to make them 
new and crisp. By virtue of the lasi-named applica- 
tion, Lincoln was enabled to draw from Balzac a 


"droll Story," and locating it in "Egypt"* or in 
Indiana, pass it off for a purely original conception. 
Every recital was followed by its " storm of laughter 
and chorus of cheers." After this had all died down, 
some unfortunate creature, through whose thickened 
skull the point had just penetrated, would break 
out in a guffaw, starting another wave of laughtei 
which, growing to the proportions of a billow, 
would come rolling in like a veritable breaker. I 
have known these story-telling jousts to continue 
long after midnight — in some cases till the very 
small hours of the morning. I have seen Judge 
Treat, who was the very impersonation of gravity 
itself, sit up till the last and laugh until, as he often 
expressed it, " he almost shook his ribs loose." The 
next day he would ascend the bench and listen to 
Lincoln in a murder trial, with all the seeming 
severity of an English judge in wig and gown. 
Amid such surroundings, a leading figure in such 
society, alternately reciting the latest effusion of the 
bar-room or mimicking the clownish antics of the 
negro minstrel, he who was destined to be an im- 
mortal emancipator, was steadily and unconsciously 
nearing the great trial of his life. We shall see 
further on how this rude civilization crystallized 
both his logic and his wit for use in another day. 

Reverting again to Mr. Lincoln as a lawyer, it is 
proper tc add that he detested the mechanical work 
of the office. He wrote few papers — less perhaps 
than any other man at the bar. Such w^ork was 

* The word Egypt, so frequently used in this book, refers to that 
portion of Illinois which lies south of the famous National Road. 



usually left to me for the first few years we were 
together. Afterwards we made good use of stu- 
dents who came to learn the law in our office. 
A Chicago lawyer,* in a letter to me about Mr. Lin- 
coln, in 1866, says: *' Lincoln once told me that 
he had taken you in as a partner, supposing you had 
system and would keep things in order, but that he 
found out you had no more system than he had, but 
that you were in reality a good lawyer, so that he 
was doubly disappointed." Lincoln knew no such 
thing as order or method in his law practice. He 
made no preparation in advance, but trusted to the 
hour for its inspiration and to Providence for his 
supplies. In the matter of letter-writing f he 
made no distinction between one of a business 
nature or any other kind. If a happy thought or 
expression struck him he was by no means reluctant 
to use it. As early as 1839 ^^ wrote to a gentle- 

* W. C. Whitney, MS. 

t " I wish you would learn of Everett what he would take, over 
and above a discharge, for all trouble we have been at to take his 
business out of our hands and give it to somebody else. It is impos- 
sible to collect money on that or any other claim here, now, and 
although you know I am not a very petulant man, I declare that I 
am almost out of patience with Mr. Everett's endless importunities. 
It seems like he not only writes all the letters he can himself, but he 
gets everybody else in Louisville and vicinity to be constantly writing 
to us about his claim. I have always said that Mr. Everett is a very 
clever fellow, and I am very sorry he cannot be obliged; but it does 
seem to me he ought to know we are interested to collect his claim, 
and therefore would do it if we could. I am neither joking nor in a 
pet when I say we would thank him to transfer his business to some 
other, without any compensation for what we have done, provided he 
will see the court costs paid for which we are security." — MS. letter 
to Joshua F. Speed, March 27, 1842. 

314 ^-^^ LIFE OF LTNCOkLN. 

man about a matter of business, observing crustily 

that " a d d hawk-billed Yankee is here besetting 

me at every turn I take, saying that Robert Kenzie 
never received the $80 to which he was entitled." 
In July, 1 85 1, he wrote a facetious message to one of 
his clients, saying: ** I have news from Ottawa that 
we win our case. As the Dutch justice said when 
he married folks, ' Now where ish my hundred tol- 
lars.' " * He was proverbially careless as to habits. 
In a letter to a fellow-lawyer in another town, apolo- 
gizing for failure to answer sooner, he explains : 
'• First, I have been very busy in the United States 
Court ; second, when I received the letter I put it 
in my old hat and buying a new one the next day 
the old one was set aside, and so the letter was lost 
sight of for a time." This hat of Lincoln's — a silk 
plug — was an extraordinary receptacle. It was his 
desk and his memorandum-book. In it he carried 

* The following unpublished letter in possession of C. F. Gunther, 
Esq., Chicago, Ills., shows how he proposed to fill a vacancy in the 
office of Clerk of the United States Court. It reads like the letter 
of a politician in the midst of a canvass for office : 

" Springfield, III., December 6, 1854. 
"Hon. Justice McLean. 

*' Sir: I understand it is in contemplation to displace the present 
Clerk and appoint a new one for the Circuit and District Courts of 
Illinois. I am very friendly to the present incumbent, and both for 
his own sake and that of his family, 1 wish him to be retained so 
long as it is possible for the Court to do so. 

"In the contingency of his removal, however, I have recommended 
William Butler as his successor, and I do not wish what I write now 
to be taken as any abatement of that recommendation. 

♦' William J. Black is also an applicant for the appointment, and I 
write this at the solicitation of his friends to say that he is every 
way worthy of the office, and that I doubt not the conferring it upon 
him will give great satisfaction. 

"Your ob't servant, 

"A. Lincoln." 


his bank-book and the bulk of his letters. When- 
ever in his reading or researches he wished to pre- 
serve an idea, he jotted it down on an envelope or 
stray piece of paper and placed it inside the lining. 
Afterwards when the meinorandum was needed 
there was only one place to look for it.^ 

How Lincoln appeared and acted in the law oflfice 
has been graphically and, I must confess, truthfully 
told by a gentleman now in New York, who was for 
several years a student in our office. I beg to quote 
a few lines from him : " My brother met Mr. Lin- 
coin in Ottawa, Ill.,t one day, and said to him: ^I 
have a brother whom I would very much like to 
have enter your ofifice as a student.' ' All right !' was 
his reply ; ' send him down and we will take a look 
at him.' I was then studying law at Grand Rapids, 
Mich., and on hearing from my brother I imme- 
diately packed up and started for Springfield. I 
arrived there on Saturday night. On Sunday Mr. 
Lincoln was pointed out to me. I well remember 
this first sight of him. He was striding along, hold- 
ing little Tad, then about six years old, by the hand, 
who could with the greatest difificulty keep up with 
his father. In the morning I applied at the office of 

♦ Lincoln had always on the top of our desk a bundle of papers 
into which he slipped anything he wished to keep and afterwards re- 
fer to. It was a receptacle of general information. Some years ago, 
on removing the furniture from the office, I took down the bundle 
and blew from the top the liberal coat of dust that had accumulated 
thereon. Immediately underneath the string was a slip bearmg this 
endorsement, in his hand: "When you can't find it anywhere else, 
look in this." 

t John H. Littlefield, Brooklyn Eagle, October 16, 1S87. 


Lincoln and Herndon for admission as a student. 
The office was on the second floor of a brick building 
on the public square, opposite the court-house. 
You went up one flight of stairs and then passed 
along a hallway to the rear office, which was a 
medium-sized room. There was one long table in 
the center of the room, and a shorter one running 
in the opposite direction, forming a T, and both 
were covered with green baize. There were two 
windows which looked into the back yard. In one 
corner was an old-fashioned secretary with pigeon- 
holes and a drawer, and here Mr. Lincoln and his 
partner kept their law papers. There was. also a 
book-case containing about 200 volumes of law as 
well as miscellaneous books. The morning I en- 
tered the office Mr. Lincoln and his partner, Mr. 
Herndon, were both present. Mr. Lincoln addressed 
his partner thus: 'Billy, this is the young man of 
whom I spoke to you. Whatever arrangement you 
make with him will be satisfactory to me.' Then, 
turning to me, he said, * I hope you will not become 
so enthusiastic in your studies of Blackstone and 
Kent as did two young men whom we had here. 
Do you see that spot over there ? ' pointing to a 
large ink stain on the wall. * Well, one of these 
young men got so enthusiastic in his pursuit of legal 
lore that he fired an inkstand at the other one's 
head, and that is the mark he made.' I immediately 
began to clean up about the office a little. Mr. 
Lincoln had been in Congress and had the usual 
amount of seeds to distribute to the farmers. These 
were sent out with Free Soil and Republican docu- 


ments. In my efforts to clean up, I found that 
some of the seeds had sprouted in the dirt that had 
collected in the office. Judge Logan and Milton 
Hay occupied the front offices on the same floor with 
Lincoln and Herndon, and one day Mr. Hay came 
in and said with apparent astonishment : ' What's 
happened here ? ' 'Oh, nothing,' replied Lincoln, 
pointing to me, ^ only this young man has been 
cleaning up a little.' One of Lincoln's striking 
characteristics was his simplicity, and nowhere was 
this trait more strikingly exhibited than in his 
willingness to receive instruction from anybody and 
everybody. One day he came into the office and 
addressing his partner, said : ' Billy, what's the mean- 
ing of antithesis?' Mr. Herndon gave him the def- 
inftion of the word, and I said : ' Mr. Lincoln, if you 
will allow me, I will give you an example.' 'AH 
right, John, go ahead,' said Mr. Lincoln in his hearty 
manner. 'Phillips says, in his essay on Napoleon, 
"A pretended patriot, he impoverished the country; 
a professed Catholic, he imprisoned the Pope," ' etc. 
Mr. Lincoln thanked me and seemed very much 
pleased. Returning from off the circuit once he 
said to Mr. Herndon : ' Billy, I heard a good story 

while I was up in the country. Judge D was 

complimenting the landlord on the excellence of 
his beef. " I am surprised," he said, " that you have 
such good beef. You must have to kill a whole 
critter when you want any." " Yes," said the land- 
lord, " we never kill less than a whole critter." 

'•Lincoln's favorite position when unravelling some 
knotty law point was to stretch both of his legs 


at full length upon a chair in front of him. In this 
position, with books on the table near by and in his 
lap, he worked up his case. No matter how deeply 
interested in his work, if any one came in he had 
something humorous and pleasant to say, and 
usually wound up by telling a joke or an anecdote. 
I have heard him relate the same story three times 
within as many hours to persons who came in at 
different periods, and every time he laughed as 
heartily and enjoyed it as if it were a new story. 
His humor was infectious. I had to laugh because 
I thought it funny that Mr. Lincoln enjoyed a story 
so repeatedly told. 

"There was no order in the office at all. The firm 
of Lincoln and Herndon kept no books. They 
divided their fees without taking any receipts or 
making any entries on books. One day Mr. Lin- 
coln received $5000 as a fee in a railroad case. He 
came in and said : * Well, Billy,* addressing his 
partner, Mr. Herndon, ' here is our fee ; sit down 
and let me divide.' He counted out $2,500 to his 
partner, and gave it to him with as much nonchalance 
as he would have given a few cents for a paper. 
Cupidity had no abiding place in his nature. 

"I took a good deal of pains in getting up a speech 
which I wanted to deliver during a political cam- 
paign. I told Mr. Lincoln that I would like to 
read it to him. He sat down in one chair, put his 
feet into another one, and said: 'John, you can fire 
away with that speech ; I guess I can stand it.' I 
unrolled the manuscript, and proceeded with some 
trepidation. * That's a good point, John,' he would 


say, at certain places, and at others: ' That's good 
—very good indeed,' until I felt very much elated 
over my effort. I delivered the speech over fifty 
times during the campaign. Elmer E. Ellsworth, 
afterwards colonel of the famous Zouaves, who was 
killed in Alexandria, early in the war, was nominally 
a student in Lincoln's office. His head was so full 
of military matters, however, that he thought 
little of law. Of Ellsworth, Lincoln said : * That 
young man has a real genius for war ! ' '* 

During the six years following his retirement 
from Congress, Lincoln, realizing in a marked 
degree his want of literary knowledge, extended 
somewhat his research in that direction. He was 
naturally indisposed to undertake anything that 
savored of exertion, but his brief public career had 
exposed the limited area of his literary attainments. 
Along with his Euclid therefore he carried a well- 
worn copy of Shakespeare, in which he read no lit- 
tle in his leisure moments. " In travelling on the 
circuit," relates one of his associates at the bar, '^ 
'' he was in the habit of rising earlier than his broth- 
ers of the bar. On such occasions he was wont to 
sit by the fire, having uncovered the coals, and muse, 
and ponder, and soliloquize, inspired, no doubt, by 
that strange psychological influence which is so 
poetically described by Poe in ' The Raven.' On 
one of these occasions, at the town of Lincoln, sit- 
ting in the position described, he quoted aloud and 
at length the poem called ' Lnmortality.' When he 

Lawrence Weldon, letter, Feb. lo, 1866, MS. 


had finished he was questioned as to the authorship 
and where it could be found. He had forgotten 
the author, but said that to him it sounded as 
much Hke true poetry as anything he had ever 
heard. He was particularly pleased with the last 
two stanzas." 

Beyond a limited acquaintance with Shakespeare, 
Byron, and Burns, Mr. Lincoln, comparatively 
speaking, had no knowledge of literature. He was 
familiar with the Bible, and now and then evinced a 
fancy for some poem or short sketch to which 
his attention was called by some one else, or 
which he happened to run across in his cursory 
reading of books or newspapers. He never in his 
life sat down and read a book through, and yet he 
could readily quote any number of passages from 
the few volumes whose pages he had hastily 
scanned. In addition to his well-known love for the 
poem " Immortality " or " Why should the Spirit of 
Mortal be Proud, " he always had a great fondness 
for Oliver Wendell Holmes' '' Last Leaf," the fourth 
stanza of which, beginning with the verse, ** The 
mossy marbles rest," I have often heard him repeat. 
He once told me of a song a young lady had sung 
in his hearing at a time when he was laboring under 
some dejection of spirits. The lines struck his 
fancy, and although he did not know the singer — 
having heard her from the sidewalk as he passed 
her house — he sent her a request to write the lines 
out for him. Within a day or two he came into the 
office, carrying in his hand a delicately perfumed 
envelope which bore the address, *' Mr. Lincoln— 


Present," in an unmistakable female hand. In it, 
written on gilt-edged paper, were the lines of the 
song. The plaintive strain of the piece and its 
melancholy sentiment struck a responsive chord in 
a heart already filled with gloom and sorrow. 
Though ill-adapted to dissipate one's depression, 
something about it charmed Lincoln, and he read 
and re-read it with increasing relish. I had for- 
gotten the circumstance until recently, when, in 
going over some old papers and letters turned over 
to me by Mr. Lincoln, I ran across the manuscript, 
and the incident was brought vividly to my mind. 
The envelope, still retaining a faint reminder of the 
perfumed scent given it thirty years before, bore 
the laconic endorsement, '' Poem — I like this," in 
the handwriting of Mr. Lincoln. Unfortunately no 
name accompanied the manuscript, and unless the 
lady on seeing this chooses to make herself known, 
we shall probably not learn who the singer was. 
The composition is headed, '"'The Enquiry." I 
leave it to my musical friends to render it into 
song. Following are the lines: 

•' Tell me, ye winged winds 
That round my pathway roar, 
Do ye not know some spot 
"Where mortals weep no more ? 
Some lone and pleasant vale 
Some valley in the West, 
Where, free from toil and pain, 
The weary soul may rest ? 
The loud wind dwindled to a whisper low, 
And sighed for pity as it answered, No. 



" Tell me, thou mighty deep, 
Whose billows round me play, 
Knows't thou some favored spot, 
Some island far away, 
Where weary man may find 
The bliss for which he sighs ; 
Where sorrow never lives 
And friendship never dies ? 
The loud waves rolling in perpetual flow 
Stopped for awhile and sighed to answer, No. 

" And thou, serenest moon, 
That with such holy face 
Dost look upon the Earth 
Asleep in Night's embrace — 
Tell me, in all thy round 
Hast thou not seen some spot 
Where miserable man 
Might find a happier lot ? 
Behind a cloud the moon withdrew in woe. 
And a voice sweet but sad responded, No. 

"Tell me, my secret soul, 
Oh, tell me, Hope and Faith, 
Is there no resting-place 
From sorrow, sin, and death ? 
Is there no happy spot 
Where mortals may be blessed. 
Where grief may find a balm 
And weariness a rest ? 

Faith, Hope, and Love, best boon to mortals given, 
Waved their bright wings and whispered, Yes, in Heaven."* 

Judge S. H. Treat, recently deceased, thus 

* Persons familiar with literature will recognize this as a poem 
written by Charles Mackay, an English writer who represented a 
London newspaper in the United States during the Rebellion as its 
war correspondent. It was set to music as a chant, and as such was 
frequently rendered in public by the famous Hutchinson family of 
singers. I doubt if Mr. Lincoln ever knew who wrote it. 


describes Lincoln's first appearance in the Supreme 
Court of Illinois. "A case being called for hearing, 
Mr. Lincoln stated that he appeared for the appel- 
lant and was ready to proceed with the argument. 
He then said : * This is the first case I have ever 
had in this court, and I have therefore examined it 
with great care. As the Court will perceive by 
looking at the abstract of the record, the only ques- 
tion in the case is one of authority. I have not 
been able to find any authority to sustain my side 
of the case, but I have found several cases directly 
in point on the other side. I will now give these 
authorities to the court, and then submit the case." 
A lawyer in Beardstown relates this : * " Lincoln 
came into -my office one day with the remark : * I 
see you've been suing some of my clients, and I've 
come down to see about it.' He had reference to 
a suit I had brought to enforce the specific per- 
formance of a contract. I explained the case to 
him, and showed my proofs. He seemed surprised 
that I should deal so frankly with him, and said he 
would be as frank with me ; that my client was 
justly entitled to a decree, and he should so repre- 
sent it to the court ; and that it was against his 
principles to contest a clear matter of right. So my 
client got a deed for a farm which, had another 
lawyer been in Mr. Lincoln's place, would have 
been consumed by the costs of litigation for years, 
with the result probably the same in the end." A 

* J. Henry Shaw, letter, June 13, 1866, MS. 


young man once wrote to Lincoln, enquiring for the 
best mode of obtaining a thorough knowledge of 
the law. '' The mode is very simple," he responded, 
** though laborious and tedious. It is only to get 
books and read and study them carefully. Begin 
with Blackstone's Commentaries, and after reading 
carefully through, say twice, take up Chitty's 
Pleadings, Greenleaf's Evidence, and Story's 
Equity in succession. Work, work, work, is the 
main thing."* 

Lincoln never believed in suing for a fee. If a 
client would not pay on request he never sought to 
enforce collection. I remember once a man who 
had been indicted for forgery or fraud employed us 
to defend him. The illness of the prosecuting 
attorney caused some delay in the case, and our 
client, becoming dissatisfied at our conduct of the 
case, hired some one else, who superseded us most 
effectually. The defendant declining to pay us the 
fee demanded, on the ground that we had not rep- 
resented him at the trial of the cause, I brought 
suit against him in Lincoln's absence and obtained 
judgment for our fee. After Lincoln's return from 
the circuit the fellow hunted him up and by means 
of a carefully constructed tale prevailed on him to 
release the judgment without receiving a cent of 
pay. The man's unkind treatment of us deserved 
no such mark of generosity from Lincoln, and yet 
he could not resist the appeal of any one in 

* Letter to J. M. Brockman, Sept. 25, 1859, MS. 



poverty and want. He could never turn from a 
woman in tears. It was no surprise to me or any 
of his intimate friends tliat so many designing 
women with the conventional widows' weeds and 
easy-flowing tears overcame him in Washington. 
It was difficult for him to detect an impostor, and 
hence it is not to be marvelled at that he cau- 
tioned his secretaries: ''Keep them away — I can- 
not stand it." 

On many questions I used to grow somewhat 
enthusiastic, adopting sometimes a lofty metaphor 
by way of embellishment. Lincoln once warned 
me : " Billy, don't shoot too high— aim lower and 
the common people will understand you. They are 
the ones you want to reach— at least they are the 
ones you ought to reach. The educated and re- 
fined people will understand you any way. If you 
aim too high your ideas will go over the heads of 
the masses, and only hit those who need no hitting." 
While it is true that from his peculiar construction 
Lincoln dwelt entirely in the head and in the land 
of thought, and while he was physically a lazy man, 
yet he was intellectually energetic ; he was not only 
energetic, but industrious ; not only industrious, but 
tireless ; not only tireless, but indefatigable. There- 
fore if in debate with him a man stood on a 
questionable foundation he might well watch where- 
on he stood. Lincoln could look a long distance 
ahead and calculate the triumph of right. With 
him justice and truth were paramount. If to him 
a thing seemca untrue he could not in his nature 



simulate truth. His retention by a man to defend 
a lawsuit did not prevent him from throwing it up 
in its most critical stage if he believed he was 
espousing an unjust cause. This extreme conscien- 
tiousness and disregard of the alleged sacredness 
of the professional cloak robbed him of much so- 
called success at the bar. He once wrote to one of 
our clients : *^ I do not think there is the least use 
of doing anything more with your lawsuit. I not 
only do not think you are sure to gain it, but I do 
think you are sure to lose it. Therefore the sooner 
it ends the better."^ Messrs. Stuart and Edwards 
once brought a suit against a client of ours which 
involved the title to considerable property. At 
that time we had only two or three terms of court, 
and the docket was somewhat crowded. The plain- 
tiff's attorneys were pressing us for a trial, and we 
were equally as anxious to ward it off. What we 
wanted were time and a continuance to the next 
term. We dared not make an afifidavit for contin- 
uance, founded on facts, because no such pertinent 
and material facts as the law contemplated existed. 
Our case for the time seemed hopeless. One morn- 
ing, however, I accidentally overheard a remark 
from Stuart indicating his fear lest a certain fact 
should happen to come into our possession. I felt 
some relief, and at once drew up a fictitious plea, 
averring as best I could the substance of the 
doubts I knew existed in Stuart's mind. The 

* Letter to H. Keeling, Esq., March 3, 1S58, MS. 


plea was as skilfully drawn as I knew how, and 
was framed as if we had the evidence to sustain 
it. The whole thing was a sham, but so con- 
structed as to work the desired continuance, 
because I knew that Stuart and Edwards believed 
the facts were as I pleaded them. This was done 
in the absence and without the knowledge of Lin- 
coln. The plea could not be demurred to, and the 
opposing counsel dared not take the issue on it. It 
perplexed them sorely. At length, before further 
steps were taken, Lincoln came into court. He 
looked carefully over all the papers in the case, as 
was his custom, and seeing my ingenious subterfuge, 
asked, *' Is this seventh plea a good one? " Proud 
of the exhibition of my skill, I answered that it was. 
'* But," he inquired, incredulously, " is it founded on 
fact ? " I was obliged to respond in the negative, 
at the same time following up my answer with 
an explanation of what I had overheard Stuart inti- 
mate, and of how these alleged facts could be called 
facts if a certain construction were put upon them. 
I insisted that our position was justifiable, and that 
our client must have time or be ruined. I could see 
at once it failed to strike Lincoln as just right. He 
scratched his head thoughtfully and asked, " Hadn't 
we better withdraw that plea ? You know it's a 
sham, and a sham is very often but another name 
for a lie. Don't let it go on record. The cursed 
thing may come staring us in the face long after 
this suit has been forgotten." The plea was with- 
drawn. By some agency — not our own — the case 
was continued and our client's interests were saved. 


I only relate this incident to illustrate Lincoln's far- 
seeing capacity ; it serves to show how over-cautious 
he seemed to be with regard to how his record 
might look in the future. I venture the assertion 
that he was the only member of the bar in Spring- 
field who would have taken such a conscientious 
view of the matter. 

One phase of Lincoln's character, almost lost 
sight of in the commonly accepted belief in his 
humility and kindly feeling under all circumstances, 
was his righteous indignation when aroused. In 
such cases he was the most fearless man I ever 
knew. I remember a murder case in which we 
appeared for the defence, and during the trial of 
which the judge — a man of ability far inferior to 
Lincoln's — kept ruling against us. Finally, a very 
material question, in fact one around which the en- 
tire case seemed to revolve, came up, and again the 
Court ruled adversely. The prosecution was jubi- 
lant, and Lincoln, seeing defeat certain unless he 
recovered his ground, grew very despondent. The 
notion crept into his head that the Court's rulings, 
which were absurd and almost spiteful, were aimed 
at him, and this angered him beyond reason. He 
told me of his feelings at dinner, and said : '' I have 
determined to crowd the Court to the wall and re- 
gain my position before night." From that time 
forward it was interesting to watch him. At the 
reassembling of court he arose to read a few author- 
ities in support of his position. In his comments 
he kept within the bounds of propriety just far 
enough to avoid a reprimand for contempt of court. 



He characterized the continued rulings against 
him as not only unjust but foolish ; and, figuratively 
speaking, he pealed the Court from head to foot. I 
shall never forget the scene. Lincoln had the 
crowd, a portion of the bar, and the jury with him. 
He knew that fact, and it, together with the belief 
that injustice had been done him, nerved him to a 
feeling of desperation. He was wrought up to the 
point of madness. When a man of large heart and 
head is wrought up and mad, as the old adage 
runs, " he's mad all over." Lincoln had studied up 
the points involved, but knowing full well the 
calibre of the judge, relied mostly on the moral 
effect of his personal bearing and influence. He 
was alternately furious and eloquent, pursuing the 
Court with broad facts and pointed inquiries in 
marked and rapid succession. I remember he made 
use of this homely incident in illustration of some 
point : " In early days a party of men went out 
hunting for a wild boar. But the game came upon 
them unawares, and scampering away they all 
climbed the trees save one, who, seizing the animal 
by the ears, undertook to hold him, but despairing 
of success cried out to his companions in the trees, 
' For God's sake, boys, come down and help me let 
go.' " The prosecution endeavored to break him 
down or even " head him off," but all to no pur- 
pose. His masterly arraignment of law and facts 
had so effectually badgered the judge that, strange 
as it may seem, he pretended to see the error in his 
former position, and finally reversed his decision in 
Lincoln's favor. The latter saw his triumph, and 


surveyed a situation of which he was the master. 
His client was acquitted, and he had swept the field. 
In the case of Parker I'j-. Hoyt, tried in the United 
States Court in Chicago, Lincoln was one of the 
counsel for the defendant. The suit was on the 
merits of an infringement of a patent water wheel. 
The trial lasted several days and Lincoln mani- 
fested great interest in the case. In his earlier days 
he had run, or aided in running, a saw-mill, and ex- 
plained in his argument the action of the water on 
the wheel in a manner so clear and intelligible that 
the jury were enabled to comprehend the points 
and line of defence without the least difficulty. It 
was evident he had carried the jury with him in a 
most masterly argument, the force of which could 
not be broken by the reply of the opposing coun- 
sel. After the jury retired he became very anxious 
and uneasy. The jury were in another building, the 
windows of which opened on the street, and had been 
out for some two hours. " In passing along the 
street, one of the jurors on whom we very much 
relied," relates Lincoln's associate in the case,^^ *' he 
being a very intelligent man and firm in his convic- 
tions, held up to him one finger. Mr. Lincoln be- 
came very much excited, fearing it indicated that 
eleven of the jury were against him. He knew if 
this man was for him he would never yield his opin- 
ion. He added, if he was like a juryman he had in 
Tazewell county, the defendant was safe. He was 
there employed, he said, to prosecute a suit for 

* Grant Goodrich, letter, Nov. 9, 1866, MS. 


divorce. His client was a pretty, refined, and inter- 
esting little woman, and in court. The defendant, 
her husband, was a gross, morose, querulous, fault- 
finding, and uncomfortable man, and entirely unfit- 
ted for the husband of such a woman ; but although 
he was able to prove the use of very offensive and 
vulgar epithets applied by the husband to his wife, 
and all sorts of annoyances, yet there were no such 
acts of personal violence as were required by the 
statute to justify a divorce. Lincoln did the best 
he could, and appealed to the jury to have compas- 
sion on the woman, and not to bind her to such a 
man and such a life as awaited her if required to 
live longer with him. The jury took about the 
same view of it in their deliberations. They de- 
sired to find for his fair client, but could discover 
no evidence which would really justify a verdict 
for her. At last they drew up a verdict for the de- 
fendant, and all signed but one fellow, who on be- 
ing approached with the verdict said, coolly : ' Gen- 
tlemen, I am going to lie down to sleep, and when 
you get ready to give a verdict for that little 
woman, then wake me and not until then ; for be- 
fore I will give a verdict against her I will lie here 
till I rot and the pismires carry me out through the 
key-hole.' ' Now,' observed Lincoln, ' if that jury- 
man will stick like the man in Tazewell county we 
are safe.' Strange to relate, the jury did come in, 
and with a verdict for the defendant. Lincoln 
always regarded this as one of the gratifying 
triumphs of his professional life." 

fi 0- A'iw